Real estate pros, including Trump Jr., see glimmers of hope in Dubai

By Chris Faherty | October 05, 2009 05:13PM

Donald Trump, Jr. spoke at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, along with Michael Atwell, Cushman & Wakefield’s head of Middle East operations (pictured second from the right in the third photo)

Dubai’s furious growth over the past five years has slowed exponentially with a greater presence of stalled plans for dozens of projects in what has been the busiest of the seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates.

Kicking off the festivities this morning in the largest annual four-day real estate conference at the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, was the executive vice president for the Trump Organization, Donald Trump, Jr., at what was billed as the international keynote presentation.

In his talk, Trump touted the steps that the local government has taken to stabilize the financial system, saying that he has no doubt that Dubai real estate, which has contracted considerably in the past year, will bounce back, though not to previous levels.

“It was too significant a part of the story of growth over the last 10 years to completely disappear. There will be growth again, though I do not think it will be like it was in the past,” he said.

Trump Jr.’s local hotel project at the Palm Jumeirah is on hold due to the slow down.

Conference participants include executives from the Dubai offices of international firms like Cushman & Wakefield and Jones Lang LaSalle, each with a large New York presence, as well as regional and international investors, developers, architects, and consultants.

While the market in Dubai has slowed, conference attendees said the city still offers opportunities and is a great launching point for investment in growth markets such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Northern Africa.

“[The Middle East is] a massive geographic area and we think the opportunities in these countries are going to expand at a sensible rate,” Michael Atwell, Cushman & Wakefield’s head of Middle East operations, told The Real Deal at the conference.

Cushman opened its Dubai office last year and has seven full-time employees. Atwell said the company is vetting opportunities throughout the Middle East from the new office.

The name alone of blue chip firms is attractive to investors looking to buy in the region, according to Thiery Loué, Jones Lang LaSalle’s CEO of Middle East and North Africa operations.

“The Jones Lang LaSalle name is critical. It is enticing to all actors in the real estate sector,” he said.