Monday, Dec 12, 2016


Food and “water” are proving an irresistible combination as Dubai Festival City enters the home stretch of its Dh1 billion plus mall expansion. The stretching of the destination’s possibilities right up to the waterline is all but done, with the developer set to unveil its latest attraction on the marina.

Coupled with the vastly expanded F&B options the mall is already serving up, these would be central to the management’s hopes of winning visitor traffic back to their 2013 peak and then outdoing that.

“It’s going to be a people-driver, to engage and excite them and puts Dubai Festival City on the map with a position right next to the water,” said Steven Cleaver, Director — Shopping Centres at Al-Futtaim Group Real Estate, which owns the property. “It was only natural to do something with the water.

“The intention is to create an immersive experience with the lights, lasers and fountains. Use the surface of the Intercontinental Hotel for video mapping. We could have concerts to accommodate 12,000 people quite comfortably.

“We could even stage something on the water — fashion shows, exhibitions. The possibilities are endless.”

The Festival City and The Dubai Mall’s 1 million square feet extension will be the only major retail capacity additions this year in Dubai, according to projections by the consultancy CBRE.

The expanded Festival City is closing in on a Spring 2017 opening, with 95 per cent of the construction side of things done with. And behind the scenes, new tenants are engaged in the fitouts and allied works.

“It’s about 91 per cent leased and of the entire area, and a significant portion of the mall is already open,” said Cleaver. “By Spring 2017, we pretty much will be finished.

“Less than 5 per cent of our earlier tenants left during the expansion. When malls evolve, it’s natural that brands change as consumer preferences change. There’s always an evolution because of that — we are no different from any other property.

“With the closing of areas in 2014 and 2015 (for construction), we lost a lot of foot traffic. But from January this year, we have seen a reversal of that trend and going to finish at about 12 per cent up on last year. And during the National Day weekend, it was phenomenal — 99.9 per cent higher on last year.”

Once complete, the overall leasable area will be close to 2.4 million square feet and feature more than 400 outlets.

Also taking a spot — quite a prominent one at that — will be the Robinsons department store from Singapore. Cutting across three levels, it will form the anchor on the northern side of the mall and occupy about 200,000 square feet.

“To my knowledge will be the biggest department store in the UAE. They have got the fitouts underway after we handed over the location in June.”

Robinsons — which, incidentally, is part of the Al-Futtaim Group’s retail interests — will have a range extending from the accessible to the premium. About 40 per cent of the merchandising at the Dubai store will be “entirely unique to the UAE”.

The Robinsons outlet will also have the first retail presence in the UAE by the famed UK label John Lewis, by occupying 1,500 square feet on its own. Meanwhile, an existing tenant, Paris Gallery will shift to a new location, becoming an anchor tenant occupying one floor on the south side of the mall. Another anchor is to be named later.

“What we are building with this expansion at the mall should be good for the next five to seven years, even 10 years. It’s more than just the physical expansion of the mall or changing of the brands we are doing.

“We have pushed right to where the old Marina area used to be. It was a conscious decision to make full use of the spectacular views, whether during the day or the evening. And it lends itself to F&B with a 360-degree vista complementing the hotel and the department stores.

“Once the expansion is finished and with the addition of Robinsons, we will cater to a much broader market than we did.”

By Manoj Nair Associate Editor

Gulf News 2016. All rights reserved.