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More shops and cinemas coming to renamed ‘Asian Town’ in Qatar

Grand Mall Hypermarket in Asian Town.

Penny Yi Wang

The 2013 opening of Grand Mall Hypermarket in what was then known as West End Park.

A popular retail and recreation complex near the Industrial Area that caters to Qatar’s low-income workforce has changed its name as it prepares to open several new amenities.

West End Park, which encompasses several cinemas, a cricket pitch, amphitheater and shopping centers including the Grand Mall Hypermarket, will now be known as “Asian Town,” according to the property manager.

A spokesperson for Ibin Ajayan Projects told Doha News that “Asian Town” was the original name given to the development when the government commissioned its construction. He also said the label reflects the customers the company wants to attract.

The spokesperson, who asked not to be named, added that Asian Town is meant to provide affordable amenities and services to the country’s low-income workforce close to where they live.

“Laborers are the most important part of (achieving) Qatar’s vision,” he said. “They are the manpower. Qatar (constructs developments such as Asian Town) as an appreciation for them.”

Barwa Al Baraha

Peter Kovessy

Barwa Al Baraha

In addition to that development, the Industrial Area is home to Barwa Al Baraha, a “Workers’ City” project aimed at providing quality housing to construction workers in Qatar.

However, both developments are located far from central Doha, and their construction was initiated alongside other efforts to push blue-collar workers out of established residential areas and shopping malls.

These have included “family only” days at some retail centers and a ban on male laborers living in some centrally located neighborhoods.

New developments

Thousands of people turned up in October 2013 to celebrate the opening of the first phase of what was then known as West End Park.

Grand Mall opening

Penny Yi Wang

Grand Mall opening

While the Ibin Ajayan Projects spokesperson said he didn’t have precise visitor numbers on hand, he estimated that some 5,000 people pass through the complex on a typical day. That figure goes up to 12,000 on weekends and for special events.

He said the development is popular with families as well as expat men.

The project’s build-out has continued and will soon include a new plaza-style mall with 240 shops selling clothing, glasses and coffee at prices meant to be affordable to low-income shoppers, the spokesperson said.

He added that the first stores in the new mall would open as part of a soft launch later this month.

West End Park Cinema

Chantelle D'mello

West End Park Cinema

Next week, a third cinema is set to start screening films and will be joined by a fourth cinema by early June, the spokesperson said.

The theaters charge a relatively low QR20 per ticket and focus on Hindi and Tamil movies aimed at Qatar’s large Indian population.

International films – such as the popular Fast & Furious 7, which the spokesperson said would be screened later this month – are also shown.

Separately, an outlet mall with some 170 stores is also expected to open in the complex later this year.

Despite mandating that retailers charge comparatively low prices, the spokesperson said there’s been no challenges finding retail tenants since Asian Town’s proximity to the Industrial Area all but guarantees a steady stream of customers.

National Sports Day

Chantelle D'mello

National Sports Day

The developer also works to increase the number of visitors through special events such as celebrations last Friday that saw performances by singers from India, Nepal and the Philippines in addition to cultural dances and sporting events.

It’s also a popular venue for events that cater to the south Asian community, such as National Day celebrations and National Sports Day activities.

“Our vision is to make it a destination for shopping and for dinner for the laborer community,” the spokesperson said.

Thoughts?

Movie-goers disappointed after Qatar’s West End Park cinema closes

West End Park Cinema

Chantelle D'mello

West End Park Cinema

The West End Park Cinema in Qatar’s Industrial Area has temporarily been closed following a sudden change in management.

West End Park Cinema

Chantelle D'mello

West End Park Cinema

The cinema, which opened in January 2014 and screens movies geared toward the country’s South Asian population, sold tickets at a discounted rate of QR15 (compared to the usual QR35/seat), and was a huge draw particularly for low-income workers living in the area.

The two theaters could seat some 500 residents at a time, and screened, among others, new Bollywood movies that were popular among moviegoers there.

Many movie-goers have expressed disappointment about the closure, said Essam Hassan, who is sales manager of the new owner of the West End property, Ibin Ajayan Projects.

Speaking to Doha News, he said:

“We we’re doing our very best to speed up the process of transferring legal paperwork and ownership so that we can open the theater up for the workers.”

However, he declined to say when the cinema would actually reopen.

Cricket at West End Park

Navin Sam

Cricket at West End Park

According to Hassan, the West End property, which includes the Grand Mall, an amphitheater, and a cricket pitch was previously owned by the Jassim Bin Mohammed Group (JBM). On Jan. 1, the contract with JBM was cancelled and Ibin Ajayan Projects was called in to manage the facilities.

The company has so far been working to complete all relevant paperwork necessary to institute the management change, including canceling contracts and re-hiring tenants under the new company, and doing routine maintenance work.

“We also had ticketing systems that had to be re-vamped, new software needs to be put in place, and we have to get the civil defense approval renewed, so we decided to do both – transferring contracts and maintenance – at the same time,” Hassan said.

So far, other events scheduled to take place at West End, including a Feb. 12 concert featuring the internationally acclaimed Algerian singer Cheb Khaled, are slated to run as planned, and have not been affected by the change.

Thoughts?

West End Park to open outlet mall in early 2015

Doha Outlet Mall

Qatar Property Management

In a sign of Qatar’s maturing retail market, a local property developer says it plans to open the country’s first outlet mall by March of next year.

Located in West End Park, near the Industrial Area in Mesaimeer, the single-story Doha Outlet Mall will be 20,470sqm, or roughly one-sixth the size of City Center.

Outlet malls typically contain single-brand stores selling off-season or leftover merchandise at a discount. Backers of the Doha Outlet Mall say it will be the first of its kind in Qatar.

Officials said 75 percent of the roughly 170 stores have been leased, but declined to name any specific retailers at a press conference on Sunday, saying only that there will be high-end fashion, jewelry, electronics, shoes, perfumes and sporting goods outlets.

Doha Outlet Mall

Qatar Property Management

The Doha Outlet Mall is part of a larger development at West End Park that includes a hypermarket that opened last October, amphitheater, four-cinema complex and cricket stadium.

When it was first discussed, officials said the complex was geared towards low-income laborers. But in the run-up to its opening last October, managers have stressed that the entertainment complex is open to families as well.

Retail saturation

Qatar is currently undergoing a retail building boom, with some 1.48 million square meters – the equivalent of 10 Villaggio malls – scheduled to be completed by 2020, according to real estate services firm Colliers International.

In a report released late last year, Colliers said mall owners may find filling all those stores to be a challenge as the supply of retail space increases faster than the demand from Qatar’s shoppers.

But Mana bin Ibrahim Al Mana – the chairperson of Qatar Property Management, which is heading the Doha Outlet Mall project – said his business model means he’ll be complementing, rather competing against, the country’s growing number of shopping centers.

“Retailers that have five locations (across Qatar) have a lot of stock they need to liquidate,” he said.

Al Mana said he hopes the mall will be a popular tourist draw, both due to its proximity to Salwa Road – which leads directly to Saudi Arabia – as well as a planned shuttle service to several five-star hotels.

He declined to provide the total project cost, saying only that the development expenses – features such as landscaping and interior fit-outs, but not the value of the land or the building itself – were roughly QR80 million (US$21.98 million).

Thoughts?