Mall of Qatar races to the finish

All photos by Peter Kovessy

Roughly 70 percent, or more than 300 shops, of the US$1.4 billion Mall of Qatar will be open for business when the shopping center welcomes its first customers on Aug. 23, a spokesperson has said.

With five months to go, construction of the 501,675-square-meter mall, located on the Dukhan Highway west of Education City, is in its final stages.

The mall appears to be racing to open before its biggest competitor, Doha Festival City, which has announced a September launch. Both malls are opening later than originally planned.

During a tour of the Mall of Qatar site this week, Doha News observed that work has largely turned toward the shopping center’s finishes, such as laying down flooring, hooking up toilets in the washroom and installing doors.

Ventilation and sprinkler systems have already been installed and could be seen running along the shopping center’s ceilings.

Mall of Qatar construction as of March 2016

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Mall of Qatar construction as of March 2016

Most walls remain bare concrete bricks, and scaffolding still permeates many corridors. But by the end of March, all 500 stores are scheduled to be turned over to tenants so they can start fitting out their space with mezzanines, drywall and facades, mall marketing director Naomi Sargeant said.

Tenants are inspecting the mall almost daily, and several have already started the fit-out process, she said.

What’s there

Since it will largely be up to individual stores to decide when they want to open, it’s not clear what the first visitors will see inside the mall in August.

“There will be some stores that will strategically hold back on their opening because they want to do launch events themselves,” Sargeant said.

A grand opening will be scheduled once a critical mass of stores are in business, she added.

Dozens of tenants, including a Cheesecake Factory, Pottery Barn, Hamley’s toy store and a “Signature Carrefour” built to resemble a village market have already been announced.

Additionally, the mall will feature a Zara, Virgin Megastore as well as Eataly, which comprises of a variety of restaurants, food and beverage counters, bakery, retail items and a cooking school.

The names of more retailers are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

Some 48 of the Mall of Qatar’s stores will be new to the country.

Mall of Qatar will also feature a 19-screen movie theater, a $25-million miniature children’s city and a 201-room five-star Curio by Hilton hotel.

The centerpiece of the mall is the 5,000-square-meter “oasis” area, encircled by two levels of restaurants, stores and a food court. A ceiling covered in skylights and four 30m tree sculptures are designed to give visitors the feeling that they are outdoors.

A revolving stage surrounded by fountains and shallow water channels will feature custom designed 35-minute shows – running twice a day, four days a week – featuring singing, dancing and acrobats. Sargeant said a start date for these performances has not been confirmed.

Competition

Entertainment amenities – which, at the Mall of Qatar, will also include fashion shows, book readings and other events – are one way shopping center operators are working to differentiate themselves in what will soon become a crowded retail market in Qatar.

Aerial view of Doha Festival City construction

Doha Festival City

Aerial view of Doha Festival City construction

Roughly after a month after Mall of Qatar debuts, Doha Festival City is scheduled to open its doors on Sept. 29. A year later, the US$1.25 billion Place Vendôme is slated to open in Lusail.

These new facilities will compete against existing malls such as City Center, Gulf Mall, Landmark and Villaggio, all of which have the advantage of being close to residential areas.

However, Mall of Qatar – like City Center – will be accessible by the Doha Metro, starting in 2019.

While retail experts have said the country will face an oversupply of space and increased vacancy, Sargeant argued Qatar’s growing number of residents and tourists mean there will be plenty of business for all the country’s shopping centers:

“There is room for several large malls that will (collectively) encourage more people to visit here, and choose to live and work here,” she said.

Mall of Qatar and Doha Festival City will be competing for the title of the country’s largest mall.

Doha Festival City will have more than 240,000 square meters of gross leasable area. While Mall of Qatar previously said it would be smaller, at 195,000 square meters, it now states it will have 256,000 square meters of retail space.

Mall of Qatar construction as of March 2016

Peter Kovessy

Mall of Qatar construction as of March 2016

During peak periods, some 10,000 workers can be found on the site at any given time. There have been no work-related fatalities, Sargeant said.

The opening of many new buildings in Qatar is frequently delayed by months due to delays in obtaining the proper Civil Defense permits.

Sargeant said an entire team is tasked with obtaining the necessary approvals and said Mall of Qatar will exceed the more stringent rules put in place following the 2012 Villaggio fire.

“All of our standards are higher than what is required by (Qatar) law,” she said. “Safety is paramount considering what has happened in the past.”

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