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Tamweel Tower in JLT to open for residents in September

Within a period of a little over eight months, the building is expected to be liveable again. (Majorie van Leijen)

By Majorie van Leijen

It has been a long period of uncertainty and frustration for the owners and former residents of Dubai’s Tamweel Tower, but it seems that this will all come to an end soon.

Tamweel Tower will once again be opened for residence, expectedly before the end of this year.

All parties involved are on board, disagreements are out of the way and the road is open towards rebuilding the gutted tower. Within a period of a little over eight months, the building will be liveable again, owners of apartments in the tower have been informed.

The news came as Orient Insurance, the insurance company responsible for reconstruction claims, agreed on the reimbursement last week. “The insurance company has sketched this timeframe. We believe they have taken into account the tender process, material mobilisation, scope of work and final handover,” said Aref Halela, the owner of an apartment in Tamweel Tower.

It is the first instance a timeframe has been presented, as negotiations regarding the reconstruction of the tower were repeatedly disturbed by disagreements of various sorts over the more than the two-year period since the fire.

Tamweel Tower was struck by a devastating fire on November 18, 2012. Residents were suddenly left without a home, and lost many of their belongings. Most of them have moved on, discouraged by the lack of visible action towards a reconstruction. The owners however, are bound to the building through their outstanding mortgages, and continuing utility bills.

Therefore there could not be better news for the owners than the announcement of a timeframe, as the owners repeatedly expressed their discontent in the past over the lack of progress made towards reconstruction. Owners and former residents described the ever-confronting view of the gutted tower as a constant reminder of the tragedy that had struck their lives.

Recently, the owners association booked a couple of successes. With the support of Tamweel, it became the first Owners Association (OA) to be registered with Rera, gaining the right to legally act on behalf of all owners. This also meant it was permitted to open a bank account, which was required to claim the reimbursement for the reconstruction.

The OA obtained an NoC from Dubai Municipality to commence restoration, conducted the tendering process with contractors and secured bids, and reviewed the tender response in order to present the final claim to Orient Insurance, narrated owners aware of the activities.

However, another hurdle was met when the claim was not accepted, and the hopes of a start on the reconstruction faded once again.

Finally, the matter received the attention of the insurance authority. A new proposal was negotiated, and the restoration can begin, the owners were told.

Moving back, or not?

“At present, I intend to move back into Tamweel Tower. I believe that after the restoration, the tower will be one of the safest and built to the highest specifications as per those required by the relevant authorities,” said Arif.

However, not all owners feel the same way. “My husband would like to return to Tamweel Tower once it is reconstructed. It was our first home in Dubai, and we really believed in JLT as a community. We loved it there. But for me, this is all gone. I do not believe in the place anymore,” said Reem Youssef, a Lebanese owner who used to live in an apartment in the tower when asked earlier.

“I am not afraid to live there again. But I feel very bad about what happened. We expected to be helped, and it would have made us feel better.”

Similarly, residents who have found a new home away from the horrific memory of the fateful night have no intention of living in the tower once again. “My wife was especially affected. She still freaks out every time a fire alarm rings. She sleeps with a bag filled with essentials next to her at all times.

“We live in a villa on the ground floor now, and we have multiple exits in case we need to escape. We pay more for the place we live in now, but it is worth the money, because we feel safer here,” said Mark, (name changed) a previous Tamweel resident earlier.

For the period of time that living in the building was not possible, owners that held their mortgages with Tamweel were met with a sympathetic gesture of freezing the payments, until the apartments could be occupied again.

Although this measure is still in place and no statement has been made regarding the resumption of these payments, mortgage payers will have to take into account that business as usual will likely resume by the end of the year.