Doha Festival City

Michael Connor
Poised to reshape retail and entertainment in Qatar.

Doha Festival City is a mixed- use retail, entertainment, leisure and hospitality development. Located in the north of Doha, 20km from the city centre and with bespoke transport links, the mall provides Qatar with an iconic and easily accessible leisure destination.

Many firsts are being achieved here. Doha Festival City is by far the largest retail mall in Qatar, and the largest under construction at present in the Middle East. It’s also the largest single private sector investment in retail in the MENA region.

Doha Festival City is owned and developed by Bawabat Al-Shamal Real Estate Company W.L.L. (BASREC). BASREC comprises four shareholders: Dubai-based Al-Futtaim Real Estate Services, Qatar Islamic Bank (QIB), Aqar Real Estate Investment Company and a private Qatari investor.

With over 245,000m2 of gross leasable area, the mall joins the ‘super-regional’ retail category, considerably expanding the options for Qatar’s fast-growing resident and visitor population.

A balanced range of international and local brands are included among the 500 stores and dining options. Qatar’s first IKEA store has been operating here since the mall’s first phase was completed in 2013. The country’s first full-sized Monoprix hypermarket, first Ace hardware big-box outlet, and the luxury department store Harvey Nichols are also on the way.

Doha Festival City is by far the largest retail mall in Qatar, and the largest under construction at present in the Middle East.

The project demonstrates the continuing development of Qatar’s property market, which is geared towards delivering the National 2030 Vision. The mall is intended as an integral part of the community, in a country where the climate often dictates indoor activities. The overall development design aims to be a neutral canvas, flexible and adaptable to accommodate a variety exhibitions and shows. 

Entertainment and leisure provision focuses on family activities, aligned with Qatari culture and values. The indoor and outdoor entertainment zones include a snow park, Angry Birds, Juniverse and Virtuocity theme parks, and an 18-screen VOX 4D cinema complex. The 8000 parking spaces illustrate the scale of the development and the numbers of families expected to visit.

This second phase of development is nearing completion, with anticipated opening in Q2 2017. Plans are also under way for a third phase, to add a 350-key five-star hotel and convention centre, with direct access to the mall. A design and build contract will shortly be awarded for these facilities.

The project has been ongoing since 2010, first breaking ground in 2011, with Faithful+Gould providing commercial management services to BASREC. As part of our integrated approach, we implemented systems to provide detailed and summary financial reporting. Our client now has robust management information that recognises current trending and provides an accurate assessment of out-turn costs. Our role focused on transforming data into sound commercial recommendations.

This meant promoting value-conscious principles, keeping the required returns for equity funders at the forefront. Close monitoring of the design/budget interface has proved successful. Moving the project forward has been challenging in a changing construction climate, seeking both value and quality initially in a buoyant market and latterly in a quieter market. Navigating the safety standards to be met via an international workforce, together with the sheer scale of the project, has demanded stringent project management and commercial management from the outset. Procurement challenges have included the changing authorities’ approvals process, which required updating to accommodate a project of this size.

Collaborative working with contractors, and early award of some of the construction works as enabling packages, has facilitated a smoother and speedier route to market. This is the first retail project for Faithful+Gould in Qatar. We are drawing on the skills we provide globally as advisors to new retail owners as well as experienced developers. We also work with retail groups, often managing enhancements to meet corporate global brand standards, in smaller units as well as large department stores.

In the Middle East region, our retail portfolio includes Al Maryah Central and Reem Mall, Abu Dhabi; City Walk and My City Centre Al Barsha, Dubai: Al Zahia, Sharjah, and Qurum and Muscat City Centres, Oman.

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