The deal to bring on mid-range offerings appears to be part of an effort to re-position the island as a more “welcoming” and less high-end destination – a strategy disclosed by UDC last year.
At the time, then-CEO of UDC Ebrahim Al-Sulaiti explained:
“This is a step towards creating a diversified shopping hub and repositioning the retail identity at the Pearl-Qatar from one that is perceived as being heavily upscale to the more comprehensive, welcoming, flexible and balanced shopping personality we’d like to have for the Island.”
Other planned outlets, all under Al Siddiqi Holding, include Turkish food franchise Tike, Lebanese fast food restaurant Lord of The Wings, fashion store Frankie Garage, shoe and leather outlet Migato and Australian home furnishing brand Kas.
In a separate development, popular American brand Red Lobster is also planning to launch a restaurant on the island, although staff at the existing C-Ring branch did not know if an opening date has been set.
The drive to bring more mid-range visitors to the Pearl follows the closure of some five-star restaurants after an alcohol ban was instituted in December 2011. Many other high-end eateries continue to struggle with falling sales.
Meanwhile, Pearl residents continue to complain about night-time noise pollution from joyriding motorcyclists and sports car owners.
‘Drastic’ rise in residents predicted
Despite these issues, UDC’s acting CEO, Badr al-Meer recently predicted that the island’s population would expand “drastically” by the end of this year, as more towers and districts are completed.
He recently told journalists that construction of the island’s “Medina Centrale” district is now complete, but UDC is waiting for clearance from Civil Defense before they can market the 1,200 units in the area.
A new, larger Spinney’s supermarket and a cinema complex with IMAX are also expected to open in this district soon. Both appear to be behind schedule, with Spinney’s previously telling Doha News it has also been awaiting Civil Defense clearance.
According to al-Meer, 18 towers in Porto Arabia are also ready to open, while 10 other towers are still under construction. Two plots remain to be sold.
Construction of the island began in 2004, and was originally slated for completion in 2011. Al-Meer described the Pearl project as now being at an “advanced stage,” with 60 percent of the island’s buildings either completed, or under-construction.
Currently, an estimated 9,000 people live on the Pearl. If the island is to meet its own ambitious targets, however, a further 39,000 people would need to move into the development by next year, its scheduled completion date.
News of increased availability of luxury apartments may prove to be a boon for Doha residents, many of whom have been feeling the pinch over rising rents.
Last year, Mark Proudley, associate director at real estate company DTZ, told Doha News that rents were increasing due in part to a lack of supply on the Pearl:
“Only one new tower at The Pearl has come onto the market this year… DTZ understands that a number of the virtually completed towers are just waiting for final Civil Defence certification, though obviously ensuring Health & Safety standards are met is a priority.”
It is possible, then, that the release of several more towers on the Pearl could ease demand, and cause prices to fall.