Browsing 'city center mall' News

A taxi queue at City Center Mall.

Kelly Wright / Doha News

A taxi queue at City Center Mall.

One of the most popular places to catch a taxi in West Bay / Dafna is going to be overhauled to include a climate-controlled waiting area with kiosks.

But the new area, inside City Center Mall’s parking garage, may not be ready in time for the warmer summer months this year, so shopping center officials have plans to install cooling vents once the temperature rises.

“We will make sure to take care of our customers waiting for taxis this summer,” City Center director Joerg Harengerd told Doha News.

Up until early 2014, taxis would pick up passengers from a service lane along the north side of the mall.

City Center Mall

Kelly Wright / Doha News

City Center Mall

However, the government ordered the taxi stand be moved over safety concerns, due to the traffic congestion and large volume of passengers coming from the busy mall and surrounding buildings.

Harengerd said the move has been a success and has created a more efficient environment for passengers to catch cabs.

Challenges

In the parking garage, there are separate lines for Mowasalat taxis and Sydney Limousine Service. Harengerd said Mowasalat recently started to send marshalls to regulate the flow of vehicles.

On average, between 500 and 600 taxis depart the mall each day. Busier days can see 900 vehicles, according to Harengerd.

However, some challenges remain.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Penny Yi Wang / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Unlicensed taxis still attempt to solicit customers around the mall’s perimeter, contributing to traffic jams. Harengerd said the mall is in contact with police who patrol the area as a deterrent.

Mowasalat also appears to have trouble matching supply with demand at times. While Harengerd said most passengers are able to immediately board a cab, but other times passengers must wait in line for some 30 minutes.

However, speaking to Doha News, one cab driver said that it is usually the taxis waiting for customers:

“Sometimes I come in and get a customer right away, but many times I have had to wait up to one hour to pick up a fare,” one said.

Other malls

Despite the hiccups, the scene at City Center is far more orderly than some of the country’s other large malls.

A lineup of vehicles at Villaggio Mall.

Kelly Wright / Doha News

A lineup of vehicles at Villaggio Mall.

Villaggio Mall – where Doha Metro construction has closed a large portion of the shopping center’s parking lot – suffers from serious traffic congestion at peak periods.

With no designated taxi stand, taxis and private drivers constantly blocking the driving lanes around the mall, making it even more difficult for motorists to maneuver.

Speaking to Doha News, several security guards say they often see vehicles backed up out of the lot and onto surrounding roads.

“Every gate is the same with taxis waiting and blocking the driving lanes. We work all day trying to get them to keep moving, but many do not want to leave until they pick up a passenger,” said one guard.

“We let them stay for a minute or two, but then they must move on. The weekends are the worst because traffic gets very backed up, but they have no taxi stand to go to. If they did they would go there and leave this area alone.”

Ezdan Mall

Ezdan Holding Group

Ezdan Mall

A few of the other malls around Doha such as Landmark Mall and Ezdan Mall have small designated lanes for taxis. However, they typically only feature a few spots, forcing other taxis and private drivers to circle the mall and contribute to congestion.

Hyatt Plaza, however, has an air-conditioned waiting zone with individual areas for men and women as well as couches and a TV.

What’s your strategy on getting a taxi from a mall? Thoughts?

City Center

City Center

City Center

One of Qatar’s oldest shopping centers is embarking on a massive facelift that will entail paring down the number of shops and adding in anchor tenants, as the opening date for several new malls draws near.

Aamal Co., which owns City Center mall, said in a statement this month that it plans to spend QR300 million over the next three years to maintain the development’s “leading market position.”

Mall manager Joerg Harengerd told Doha News one of the biggest changes will be at the rear of the shopping center, which he conceded can feel a bit like a “labyrinth” at times for shoppers.

According to Harengerd, the renovation project includes plans to make the mall’s layout more logical for shoppers, so that visitors can walk down corridors with shops on either side without running into dead ends.

He also said that new entertainment options were being considered to replace the mall’s existing leisure attractions, adding that removing the ice rink is a possibility.

Central location

Additionally, connections to the soon-to-be opened Shangri-La, Rotana and Merweb hotels on the mall’s east side will be constructed, similar to the entrance to the Marriott Marquis on the west end of the shopping center, Harengerd said.

 Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Peter Kovessy

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

City Center also plans to reduce the number of stores from approximately 370 to between 330 and 350 to allow new large anchor tenants to move in, he added.

The manager declined to discuss specific tenants that the mall is targeting, apart from saying that he’d like to see more fashion retailers.

The goal, he said, is to take advantage of City Center’s central location and allow customers to complete all their shopping under one roof.

Meanwhile, Harengerd said efforts are underway to make the shopping experience more “comfortable” by for example adding new entrances to the parking garage, as well as new decorations to improve the mall’s appearance.

“We want customers to say, ‘Wow,’” he said.

While many new shopping centers are positioned to chase the upper-end of the retail market, Harengerd said City Center will continue to cater to Qatar’s middle class.

City Center mall

Peter Kovessy

City Center mall

The latest renovations come roughly a year after City Center added 35 new stores on its lower level, including Bread & Bagels, Costa Coffee as well as Pets & More, among others.

City Center is currently among the largest shopping malls in the country, but is expected to lose that title next year.

Both the Mall of Qatar in Al Rayyan past Education City, as well as Doha Festival City, which includes the Ikea off Al Shamal Road, will dwarf City Center and Villaggio mall in size when they are completed.

Doha Festival City recently said it’s sticking to plans to open in September 2016 and has installed countdown clocks in its offices to remind employees and contractors of the Sept. 29 deadline.

Mall of Qatar also recently said that it will open by September 2016.

Tawar Mall construction

Tawar Mall

Tawar Mall construction

Analysts have previously said that Qatar will face an oversupply of retail space once these shopping centers, as well as other under-construction properties such as North Gate Mall and Tawar Mall, open in the coming years.

This is expected to woo shoppers who used to frequent older properties, such as City Center.

But Harengerd said the mall’s West Bay location and connection to the Doha Metro will help it compete.

“Of course, everyone will go to Doha Festival City and Mall of Qatar when they open to see how they look,” he said. “But our goal is to keep them as customers.”

Thoughts?

Peter Kovessy

A pet store, barber shop and food outlet Bread and Bagels are among nearly three dozen new retailers being added to the ground floor of City Center Mall.

The mall, located in West Bay, is currently one of Qatar’s largest shopping centers, alongside Villaggio Mall, although both will soon be dwarfed by several new retail properties under construction.

Joerg Harengerd, City Center’s director, told Doha News that he expects most of the new stores to launch by early 2015, subject to Civil Defense approvals. The first, a Crocs footwear retailer, has already opened.

Peter Kovessy

“It’s a mix of many kinds of shops … (although it is) more service-oriented,” Harengerd told Doha News in an interview this week.

The lower level of the mall is divided into two distinct enclosed sections, separated by an ice rink in the center of the shopping center, and has several access points to the parking garage.

When Doha News visited the shopping center earlier this week, marketing graphics identifying the retailers covered many of the temporary walls that shielded the concourse from the construction fit-outs taking place in the future stores.

The new retailers include:

West side (below Carrefour)

  • Ahli Bank
  • Al Salahi / Fancy Rose (jewelry);
  • Axiom Telecom;
  • Beauty Box (hair and nails salon);
  • Costa Coffee;
  • DHL (shipping);
  • In No Mind (home decor);
  • K Corner (footwear);
  • Marian Tailors;
  • Mr. Quality (key cutting and watch repairs);
  • Occhiali (eyewear); and
  • Qatar Islamic Bank.

East side (near the new taxi bay)

  • Albayt Alasil (honey and olive oil products);
  • Al Dar for Exchange Works (money transfer / foreign exchange);
  • Al Jaber Opticians;
  • Axa (insurance);
  • Bread and Bagels;
  • Pets & More;
  • Qatar-UAExchange (money transfer / foreign exchange);
  • Tavola (houseware);
  • Technical Care Center (mobile phone repair); and
  • The Barber.

Some of the businesses already operate inside City Center, and appear to be relocating. This suggests that the mall will see more new retailers on its upper floors once the relocations are complete.

Harengerd said the new stores were constructed using space from the enclosed parking garage without losing any vehicle stalls.

Competition

The new stores will add roughly 10,000 square meters of leasable space to City Center’s existing 130,000 square meters, which is currently fully rented, Harengerd said.

While City Center is among the largest shopping malls in the country for now, that will change in the coming years.

Mall of Qatar rendering.

Mall of Qatar

Mall of Qatar rendering.

Both the Mall of Qatar in Al Rayyan, past Education City, as well as Doha Festival City, which includes the Ikea off Al Shamal Road, will dwarf City Center and Villaggio in size when they are completed.

Analysts have forecast that Qatar will actually see an oversupply of retail space when these and several other properties – including North Gate Mall, Tawar Mall and Gulf Mall – open in the coming years.

At this year’s Cityscape Qatar real estate conference, a retail consultant working on the Mall of Qatar project predicted that the country’s newer shopping centers would be able to fill their stores, but would succeed at the expense of older properties.

“Some of the original shopping centers have already lost market share,” said Phil McArthur, managing director of McArthur+Co.

Naming The Mall and City Center as examples, he said many of Doha’s original retail hubs “are going to have a real challenge” competing.

But City Center’s Harengerd disagrees.

Qatar Rail

“Location-wise, we have a big advantage,” he said, noting that the shopping center will have a connection to the under-construction Doha Metro.

There are also several high-rise residential towers under construction in the West Bay / Dafna area, which will likely increase the number of potential shoppers who can reach City Center by foot.

Harengerd predicted that many Qatar residents would visit the new malls when they open out of curiosity, but eventually return to their regular shopping habits.

“People will try them, experience them and come back,” he said.

Thoughts?