A LOT OF HEARTACHE
By MAI AL KHATIB
Posted On » July 7-13, 2010 (Volume:9 / Issue 27)
ANXIOUS investors hoping to buy into the Bahrain dream claim they have become the victims of broken promises and received nothing but heartache after sinking their hard-earned savings into the Marina West development.
Many buyers were hoping to move into their new apartments but instead are organising action meetings and demanding answers from the developers.
Comprising 350,000 square metres of residential, retail and leisure space, Marina West was to have become Bahrain's largest gated beachfront residential community.
The $700 million development was originally set to be completed in the first quarter of 2010 and feature 11 towers accommodating luxury apartments, duplexes, simplexes, penthouse suites alongside a marina, private beach and extensive high quality retail facilities.
Today the skeletons of unfinished apartment blocks lay eerily still as sand blows around the stationary cranes and the sun reflects off the steel spines protruding into the sky.
"It's a heartbreaking situation for so many individuals and families. There are many stories of great hardship," said Hassan Al Husseini, 65, a former chief of government affairs policy and planning for oil giant Saudi Aramco, who was hoping to spend his retirement days with his wife in their Marina West apartment.
"Everyone agrees that we want to see the project completed quickly and successfully. We believe Marina West is a good concept. We believe in Bahrain. We want to avoid litigation or financial insolvency."
Apartment owners have been staging a series of gatherings to see what they can do as a united group about their predicament. The investors are Bahrainis, Saudis and other expatriates from 25 countries including the UK, US, Canada, Germany, France, Australia, India, Pakistan, Kuwait and Lebanon.
Marina West officials blame the global financial crisis for the delay in completion; say talks are at an advanced stage with potential financial backers but admit it might be another year before apartments are ready to be handed over.
At the project's launch in 2007 the one, two, three and four bedroom freehold residences were available starting from BD50,000. Potential buyers of the 'luxury residences' were sold on the idea of a 'tranquil and idyllic coastal surrounding' on the island's west coast close to some of the kingdom's most popular international schools.
Ahmed Abubaker Janahi, chairman and chief executive officer of AAJ Holdings Company, the company representing Marina West, said the development presented a 'compelling proposition' and from an early stage said it had gained the 'serious interest' of home seekers.
Work on site stopped abruptly in March, according to the apartment buyers. Mr Al Husseini said: "We sold our old home in Adliya hoping to move into our new Marina West apartment. Instead we have been forced to rent.
"For over a year we were individually told every month that 'next month' hopefully some new financing agreement would be signed. But nothing appears to have been concluded.
"Many home owners are evaluating different actions at the same time as hoping that Marina West will reach an agreement with some new 'white knight' financial investor who can salvage us from this situation.
"Under our signed agreements, we were to have formed an Owners' Association with an elected committee to manage the Marina West project when it was finished. Instead we have had to form an informal investors' committee to consider our options."
Three meetings attracting hundreds of would-be residents have been staged so far. Retired British financial advisor Alan Pitt, 78, attended them after so far paying out BD84,000 on a two-bedroomed apartment costing BD88,000 so that he and his wife could be closer to their daughter, who is married to a Bahraini, and their grandchildren.
He said: "I am now on an 'extended holiday' here with my wife waiting to move in!
"The idea was that when we sold our house in the UK we could spend more time with our daughter here in Bahrain.
"I was promised when I bought the apartment I would get assistance for permanent residency. They sent me the forms but they are of little use without a home to go with them!
"The first completion date was supposed to be December 2009 but it was delayed. That's fine except that in the contract it states a letter should be sent out three months before the actual date to alert the owners of any delay. I did not receive the letter until this February so as far as I am concerned the contract has been broken.
"There are many out there like me, still waiting for their homes to be finished. I have attended the meetings formed by the apartment owners and one poor young Bahraini girl in particular caught my attention. She had bought an apartment and doesn't know where to go - she was nearly in tears."
According to the Marina West website its development management 'dream team' consists of ReeMoon Consulting Company, the real estate development arm of AAJ Holdings. Based in Bahrain, the company focuses on large urban development projects throughout the Middle East and beyond. Some of ReeMoon's most 'celebrated master planning and project management developments' include Bahrain Financial Harbour and Al Hamad Construction & Development Company is the main contractor. Al Hamad lays claim to the premier name in the kingdom's construction sector, with projects such as the Bahrain Financial Centre, Banyan Tree Desert Spa & Resort, Lost Paradise of Dilmun Water Park, the Bahrain International Insurance Centre, Marriot Towers, Abraj Al Lulu, Villa Mar and Reef.
Mr Janahi said in a recent press release: "We are still committed to continue working with the main contractor, Al Hamad, inspite of the economic crisis which has led us to derive new strategies, restructure and introduce new partners.
"We are determined to bring the project to completion. What distinguishes this project and enhances confidence is that the developers, in addition to the main contractor, are partners in the project and they are both very keen to complete it according to the plan. The delay caused has been formally communicated to all our clients."
He also said negotiations were currently underway with a number of investors who were 'willing' to be part of the project, adding: "We will announce the results which will hopefully give a fresh impetus to the project, and this will serve the project as well as ensure full resumption of work immediately.
"It's true that the global financial crisis has affected Marina West as well as other real estate projects but we are committed to continuing."
This week the project received a much-needed boost when a spokesman for the Rixos Group - the luxury hotel brand first launched in Turkey - told GulfWeekly that its Rixos Marina West Hotel project was progressing in a 'timely fashion' and the group was looking at an opening date of mid-to-late 2012.