Construction work has commenced on the first phase of the $1.5-billion Al Maryah Central, a mixed-use development located on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi.
Brookfield Multiplex was awarded a $425-million contract last month to build the $1-billion retail component of the project, which is being developed by Gulf Related and designed by leading US architecture firm Elkus Manfredi.
Phase One of the 3.1-million-sq-ft Al Maryah Central will deliver an iconic, super-regional shopping destination that is slated to open in March 2018. Development work broke ground in November 2014 with the excavation of the site and foundation construction work already completed.
When completed, the 2.3-million-sq-ft mall will comprise a 400-store strong retail offering including the first Macy’s outside of the US, the first Bloomingdale’s in Abu Dhabi and 20 specialist Al Tayer stores. In addition, it will include 145 restaurants and cafés, a 20-screen cinema complex, a medical centre, a crèche, a health club, a public library, a food market as well as three rooftop parks atop the mall and will be fully connected to existing and future transport links.
Further phases of the development will include two 400,000-sq-ft integrated towers – one with a hotel and serviced apartments and the other with luxury residences – scheduled for opening in January 2019.
The shopping centre will be anchored by Macy’s department store and Bloomingdale’s and will feature a comprehensive mix of best-in-class retail outlets combining both luxury and contemporary brands, according to Kevin Ryan, managing director, Real Estate Development at Gulf Related.
Masterplanned and being developed by Mubadala Development Company, Al Maryah Island is an integrated, mixed-use development in the centre of Abu Dhabi. The island has been designated as Abu Dhabi’s Central Business District and modelled on the world’s leading mixed-use 24-hour financial districts. The vibrant urban hub includes Abu Dhabi Global Market Square (earlier known as Sowwah Square) comprising The Galleria, four Grade ‘A’ commercial towers, Rosewood Abu Dhabi and Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi (due for completion in 2016) as well as Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, a world-class, 364-bed multispecialty hospital, and the new headquarters of Al Hilal Bank. The entire district will be interconnected by air-conditioned passageways and serviced by more than 15,000 parking spaces and 13 bridges.
Upon completion, Al Maryah Central will be connected to over 15.7 million sq ft of adjacent, completed and occupied properties on Al Maryah Island. Al Maryah Central’s shopping mall along with the adjacent The Galleria – a premier waterfront shopping and dining destination which has also been developed by Gulf Retail – will offer more than 600 retail, leisure and dining options.
The Al Maryah Central site is massive - around nine football fields long and two football fields wide. At one corner will be a 35-storey hotel building, and diagonally across at the other corner there will be a 35-storey apartment building, with the mall located in between.
The mall is nine storeys high with four floors of parking below ground level.
Two bridges from the second floor of the mall will connect it to the roofs of the two existing parking buildings, which will have parks, entertainment centre and food and beverage (F&B) outlets. The bridges are part of plans to connect all high-rise buildings in Al Maryah Island so that there will be continuous walkway around the place and one does not have to go out.
With the section of the mall housing Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s earmarked to be constructed first, the first slab on the Bloomingdales outlet is expected to be up early this month (September).
Gulf Related is fast-tracking work on these two sections to have them completed by February with the rest of the mall to be finished by next July. The plan is to have the structures of the two department stores up including the façade and the roof, as well as the vertical transportation and the escalators in, and hand them over to the owners so that they can start with the interiors.
Ryan points out that though it is a huge project, it is not complicated. “It is a big project. We will start putting the skin on even before the entire structure is completed. We will put the skin on the two department stores by February and the remaining mall by July. It is a fast-paced project and at the peak of construction, we should have 5,000 people on site.”
Ryan says the project enjoys an excellent location, being centrally located. “We are closest to the existing density and the Abu Dhabi Global Market Square,” he says. “The Galleria is positioned as a luxury retail centre along with a dining destination and six more major restaurants are coming up when Four Seasons opens. As a dining destination, we will shortly be one of the best, as together the two malls will offer more than 110 F&B outlets.”
A key differentiator of the shopping centre is that it is “more urban. Most of the malls look like large boxes but we have paid a lot of attention on the exterior design.
“Our positioning is upscale. We will be offering something for the entire family. We will also have two major dining destinations; one will be the traditional food court. Then we are also having a state-of-the-art custom food hall. There will be around 20 food outlets designed at the higher level,” adds Ryan.
The project will also feature a 20-screen state-of-the-art cinemas located in the Macy’s atrium at the upper level.
The roof of the two large parking buildings will each feature 86,000 sq ft of landscaped space with playgrounds, a carousel, community spaces, fountains, F&B outlets, and other family-oriented retail facilities.
“Both the spaces above the parking buildings are similar, with one being designed for young children and the other for older ones. Similarly, the retail outlets will focus on the different age groups.”
The exterior architecture will employ digital technology. “We are allowing our retailers to market their brands with the help of digital technology. Inside the mall, there is a high level of interior finish – it feels like one is in a hotel,” says Ryan.
Commenting on the market, he says: “Abu Dhabi is on aggressive growth trajectory with the airport being expanded and also the airline. Tourism will also grow.
“When we look at the Abu Dhabi market, particularly in the upscale to luxury sector, there is short supply. So that is where we are positioning ourselves. While Galleria is pure luxury, Al Maryah fills the gap. As we have seen in all the cities, some malls become the destination mall and that is what we are aiming for with the combination of location and good anchoring.
“Al Tayer group is bringing the two anchor stores as well as 20 more stores. We will be announcing more tenants later this year or early next year. Currently, the mall is 35 to 40 per cent leased and will be well over 50 per cent by the year-end. We hope to have it completely leased out by next year,” he adds.
The next phase of the project will include a 40-storey hotel building, with 250 rooms, next to Bloomingdales and a 50-floor residential building near Macy’s. The mall will be connected to the hotel, says Ryan. There will be a total of 325 residential units between the towers. The apartments will be a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units.
The two towers are currently in the design stage.
Gulf Related is a regional real estate development company focused on retail, residential and high-end mixed-use real estate developments in the Middle East. The company represents a joint venture between Gulf Capital, one of the Middle East’s leading alternative asset management firms, and Related Companies, one of the largest private real estate development and investment firms in the US. The Gulf Related team leverages its core competencies from Related in real estate planning, development and management; while Gulf Capital brings strong regional relationships, access to deal flow, and fund raising capabilities.
Gulf Related is focused on pursuing marquee large-scale mixed-use real estate development opportunities in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia. In addition to developing The Galleria on Al Maryah Island and Al Maryah Central, Gulf Related is developing a 550-unit expatriate residential compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The company is identifying additional multi-phase, master-planned, mixed-use development opportunities in urban centres as well as large-scale community developments.