Emirates Embraces Retail Therapy

Donal O'Leary
Al Maryah Central will open in March 2018 in Abu Dhabi’s prestigious Al Maryah Island community.

Retail is one of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states’ fastest-growing sectors, and the second largest behind oil. Increasing populations, local and expatriate wealth, strong household consumption and a growing tourism industry are the drivers for this major contributor to economic growth in the region.

The most active markets, with highest growth potential, are the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. It’s a competitive arena, with developers differentiating on scale, quality, accessibility, food & beverage offerings, leisure provision, and the introduction of new brands.

Regional developer Gulf Related is developing its first super-regional shopping destination, Al Maryah Central, located on Al Maryah Island in the heart of Abu Dhabi city, the UAE capital. The emirate’s Urban Planning Council has designated the island as the capital’s Central Business District. The district is expected to be a catalyst in fulfilling Abu Dhabi’s urban master plan objective of environmental, economic and social sustainability.

The most active markets, with highest growth potential, are the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

Gulf Related is a joint venture between asset management company Gulf Capital and US real estate developer Related. Gulf Related also built the adjacent high-end Galleria, on Al Maryah Island opposite the Al Maryah Central site. Al Maryah Central complements the overall provision by bringing high street retailers to the neighbourhood, within a high-quality facility.

Al Maryah Central will provide over 1.3 million square feet of leasable retail floor space over four floors. Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s have recently been confirmed as anchor tenants (brought to Abu Dhabi in a joint agreement between Gulf Related and Dubai-based Al Tayer Group), with 400 other retail outlets planned.

Al Maryah Central will provide over 1.3 million square feet of leasable retail floor space over four floors.

Over 90 food outlets are also planned, with a gourmet food market, cinema, health club, children’s entertainment and public realm roof gardens. The food & beverage offering is intended as a key market differentiator, with a contemporary, culturally diverse, market-style food hall acting as a destination in its own right.

The site is tightly constrained, due to surrounding elevated roads. Designed by Gensler, the vertical mall design comprises five floors, with an additional four levels of parking. This brings efficiency challenges as a greater area is required for vertical transportation. A vertical design also presents challenges in terms of natural light and store visibility from other levels.

Flexibility in design is especially important for retail clients, as they also have to satisfy the needs of their tenants. Leasing layouts change, openings in floors are added or removed, and malls are regularly expanded or renovated to maintain their position in evolving local markets. We have been involved in assessing the impact of future-proofing design studies, to maximise future flexibility for the client within the boundaries of commercial viability.

Flexibility in design is especially important for retail clients, as they also have to satisfy the needs of their tenants.

Faithful+Gould is providing cost management services on the project, to help Gulf Related achieve maximum efficiency and best value. We control and manage costs throughout the project lifecycle, and services include cost control, tender documentation, and risk and value management. Procurement strategies are aimed at delivering the mall in accordance with cost and programme aspirations. We incorporate change management procedures into project procurement to allow full cost control and to enable informed, timely decisions to be made.

This is just one of our ongoing retail projects in the GCC region. We’ve delivered integrated project, programme and cost management services on several malls throughout the Middle East. We have an excellent in-depth understanding of the sector, and support clients from the earliest speculative stages through to completion of construction works. We also work with a range of tenant clients, including Tiffany & Co, VOX Cinemas, Magic Planet, Costa Coffee, Nike, Nokia and IKEA, managing fit-outs to meet corporate brand standards in single units as well as large department stores.

We lead retail projects throughout the Middle East, Americas, Asia Pacific, UK and Europe, providing our integrated project and programme management approach on major developments, individual stores and refurbishments.

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