‘WTC is bringing a new concept in urban living to Abuja’
THE economy and last election have had its toll on the real estate sector. How has this imparted on the development of the World Trade Centre (WTC) Abuja?
The change of government, current political and economic landscape has had its effect on everyone, including businesses across diverse sectors. The real estate sector and the WTC Abuja project is by no means an exception.
Having said that, we are still carrying on with our vision to develop a world – class city centre and we have been able to actualize our strategy and make significant progress on the project despite all hurdles. We are confident that as the new government implements its policies, the WTC Abuja project is poised on a steady path. And with the intending completion of Phase One, we feel that we are ready to deliver a business hub that is capable of providing a threshold for Nigeria’s rapid ascent into the world of international business.
Can you take us through the journey of WTC Abuja as we get set to witness the completion of its phase one by the end of 2015?
The World Trade Centre Abuja is far from a novel project; it has been in planning for several years now and a lot of executive time, technical know-how and professional man-hours have gone into bringing it to where it is today.
The project was conceived in 2010, and since then, we have gone through the various design phases, appointed architects and other professionals, consulted with different World Trade Centres from around the world, and we combined all of this to create a project that we believe is workable for Abuja today and in the future. We are proud to say that our Phase One, which consists of a commercial and residential component, is now almost complete. However, we have not stopped there; we are now deep in planning for the subsequent phases of the project, which comprise the retail and hospitality components.
We are very excited about where the project is today; the foundation is now set and we look forward to the future.
WTC is being developed at a time housing development in Nigeria is on the upsurge, especially for the high-income earners, leading to vacant spaces in highbrow areas. What has been your experience with local and foreign investors?
We do not believe that we are competing with the current housing supply that has been built in Abuja at present. For the affluent homeowner, the norm has been to own a town house or a villa in a residential area such as Maitama, and Asokoro. What we are bringing to Abuja is the new concept of urban living, multifamily housing whereby you have all the amenities that you can ever dream of all under one roof. With the WTC Abuja, you are living in a community that is secure, convenient and accessible to the entire city of Abuja. Our project is very different from the rest and it is going to fill a void that exists today.
One would imagine that due to the magnitude of the project, the organization would have encountered some challenges whilst constructing the first phase, how were you able to surmount the hurdles?
With any big project, one is bound to come across big challenges. And we have definitely faced a few challenges during the construction of Phase One of the World Trade Centre Abuja. For example, during the course of construction, certain areas of the project had to be redesigned in order to achieve the desired level of quality and standard. We faced logistical delays such as congestion in the ports that also set back our delivery date. We have had to constantly reposition ourselves in order meet the ever-changing consumer and market needs.
However, I do not feel this is out of the ordinary and it is expected for every construction project. When you embark on a huge project such as WTC Abuja, you have to be ready to face challenges such as these and overcome them. For us, we have built a strong team around ourselves that we are able to take on any challenge that comes our way; we are still certain that the product we will deliver will meet the expectations of our esteemed customers and raise the profile of Abuja and Nigeria amongst other landmark projects around the world.
What are the prospects of the up-coming Phase II development due for commencement in 2016? Don’t you think the hospitality industry is already saturated?
As I mentioned earlier, phase two of the development is deep into planning. We have already applied for development permits and we will soon be in a position to begin construction. This is expected to kick off in 2016. Phase Two will consist of the hospitality and retail components, which will complement Phase One extremely well and bring us one step closer to realizing our vision of building a city within a city. In terms of market saturation, I think we are far from that point. Yes, there are other projects that are being developed right now, however the pace at which Abuja is growing is phenomenal and there is definitely still space for plenty more high quality real estate products.
What are the key features of the WTC, Abuja and likely socio-economic implication to Nigeria? Secondly, WTC Abuja project has two dimensions – Infrastructure and WTC franchise membership, can you shed more light on this?
At the moment, West Africa does not have a purpose-built World Trade Centre. In line with this, we felt it does not do justice to our continent. Having spent time and interacted with other World Trade Centres around the world such as the WTC headquarters in New York City, I have personally seen the benefits that these developments bring to their respective cities. A World Trade Centre in a particular city opens up trade in that city to the world. The World Trade Centre Association (WTCA) is made up of 330 WTCs around the globe and each of these has a member network of diverse businesses that are looking to do business abroad. So by having a WTC in Abuja brings the world closer to us.
Developing a project like this also has positive socio-economic implication on Abuja and the entirety of Nigeria. For instance, we have already created employment for thousands of people during the construction of Phase One and this will continue throughout all subsequent phases of the project. Going forward, once the development is operational, thousands of additional jobs will be created. However, these are not the only benefits; we feel that bringing the WTC to Abuja will also be an economy driver in itself. For example, it will enable international businesses to make investments in our community. Ties will be forged between government agencies, non-governmental organizations and international corporations, and the additional business that is captured within the walls of the World Trade Centre will provide tax revenues to government, which can be used to improve the welfare of the populace.
Aside from the World Trade Centre Association itself, by developing a physical premise in our capital city, we are boosting the perception of Abuja with the rest of the world. We will have an iconic development that is compared to the likes of New York, Hong Kong, and London.
Tell us how Churchgate Group intends to maintain the quality of WTC Abuja upon completion? Where do you see World Trade Centre Abuja in the next 10 to 15 years?
Real estate development is Churchgate’s core business, and with that, we have also developed the expertise in the facility management of our properties. Churchgate already operates a portfolio of properties around the country and we have been able to maintain our properties at the highest level for decades. Churchgate Group has the credibility of maintaining all its skyline buildings to an international standard. The current clientele base of Churchgate includes an array of multinationals corporations that expect a high level of quality and standard, which we have been able to successfully provide since the inception of our properties. We see no exception with the World Trade Center Abuja and we feel that operating such a development fits well in our business model.
In terms of where I see the World Trade Centre Abuja in the next 10 to 15 years, as Abuja continues to grow at the rate its going right now, I do not see it as solely a political capital of Nigeria, I see it as an anchor of trade and business and I feel that its importance will continue to rise as the years come by. The World Trade Centre currently sits at the Central Business District of Abuja – the heartbeat of the city and therefore the country. I envisage it becoming the business hub within Abuja that is home to top business organizations and individuals that are making positive impact in our country.