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Megadeveloper Damac, New Owner Of Surfside Collapse Site, Plans U.S. Expansion

Damac Properties Chairman and founder Hussain Sajwani

Damac Properties is a titan of the commercial real estate industry in Dubai and across the Middle East, and it plans to make its mark in a big way in the U.S.

Damac, owned by Hussain Sajwani, closed last month on its purchase of the site in Surfside where a high-rise tower collapsed last year in one of the deadliest structural failures in U.S. history. The high-profile purchase — where Damac is planning a new luxury condo building — is the developer's first in the U.S., but Sajwani said he is already scouting for his next projects.

Sajwani said he is looking to expand up the East Coast, although he is first focused on the Surfside project, in an interview with The Real Deal this week.

“We think New York has potential, and Boston – those are two cities on the East Coast where we would love to do something in the future,” Sajwani told the publication.  

“The U.S. has been and is always going to be a target for overseas investment. It’s the largest world economy,” Sajwani said. “I wouldn’t say it’s easy, but it’s more clear to do business in the U.S. [because] you know what is allowed and what is not allowed very quickly."

Many foreign investors have reduced their investments into the U.S. amid the economic uncertainty and strong U.S. dollar — inbound cross-border investment fell by 19% year-over-year in the first quarter, according to CBRE.  Sajwani said that is why this is the time to “immediately take action and move fast.”

“Our analysis of a recession, if it comes to the States, is that it’s going to be mild and it’s not going to be very long,” Sajwani told TRD. “We are not concerned about the recession. From history, and I have seen it, [the] U.S. whenever it gets in a recession it is the first one to come out. And they always come out stronger.”

Damac is far from a stranger to developing in global gateway markets. It has developed in Saudi Arabia, Toronto, London, Lebanon, Qatar and Jordan, and collaborated with former President Donald Trump on a branded golf course — a partnership Sajwani affirmed even after the Jan. 6 insurrection. The developer also has a resort in the Maldives under construction and is investing in companies involved in hospitality, tech and the metaverse.

For now, Damac is focused on Surfside, where the developer is building "an ultra-luxurious" Cavalli-branded condo development on its 1.8-acre site that it said in a May press release has 200 feet of beach frontage. 

In addition to developing the condo collapse site, Damac is considering acquiring other properties in Surfside, “next door or a few kilometers up or down," Sajwani said. The firm hasn't committed on what to do, if anything, to honor the 98 people who died on the land last year.

"We would love to meet with the community, with the people and I’m going to send some of my senior executives to Miami and to meet with the government officials and the city councils to see if there’s anything we can do and contribute to make that bad incident less hurtful and less bad," Sajwani told TRD.