Dubai Festival City undergoing a Dh1.2b transformation

By admin Tuesday, 12 May 2015 4:28 PM

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First phase will see unveiling of new-look Festival Square with 25 new outlets

Dubai: The Dubai Festival City Mall is undergoing a Dh1.2 billion transformation that will make further use of its prime Dubai Creek side location and raise the mall’s retail and entertainment offerings. The multiphase expansion, expected to be complete by the second quarter of next year, will raise the gross leasable area to 2.4 million square feet (from 2.1 million square feet), add another ‘full-line department store operator as an anchor tenant, and also open a second ‘family entertainment centre’.

The mall management is aiming the additions to come in handy in raising the footfall from the low 20 million a year into the mid-20 million or thereabouts.

It will also involve some nifty engineering work — earlier, there was a canal separating the mall from the marina side pavilion. The new look will see the canal make way for closer integration into a single — fully enclosed — facility. “It was always part of the expansion plan to have the property enclosed for a seamless circulation zone for shoppers,” said Brad Merchant, General Manager. “Earlier, they had to exit one building, go over the water element to the other.

“Adding a full enclosure is expensive from a construction perspective, but it will be worth it. It was about doing what’s right in today’s retail environment. And one of the key drivers of the expansion was to have a better activation of the Creek side location.”

For the new retail space, the aim is to tap mid to ‘bridge’ fashion brands. “Even though our primary trade area is relatively affluent, adding luxury offerings is not a priority on the leasing side,” said Merchant. “I don’t think rushing to build a luxury cluster would necessarily prompt more visits now. If there is a potential for such offerings, it has to be in the future.”

The first phase — to be unveiled on May 14 — comes in the form of a revamped Festival Square, the main atrium space. Twenty-five new stores will take up position in this one. Another phase is due to open in the fourth quarter with 60 outlets. (Merchant declined to identify the department store operator. “The exact date of when they will open is still up in the air,” he added.)

By the second quarter of next year, the rest of the components will fall into place. Post the expansion, there will be 420 outlets.

It’s on the food and beverage side that the ongoing expansion is giving particular attention to. The two food courts that it has now will be consolidated into a single, 3,500 square metre, 2,000-seat plus facility.

“We decided to go in stages to ensure there’s minimum disruption to the existing mall-wide operations,” said Merchant. “We have already secured 85 per cent commitment for the new space.”

On whether the new entrants are coming in on higher lease terms, Merchant said: “The overall rents in the mall are going to be more reflective of today’s market rates. Plus, there’s the fact that we are creating something — through new attractions — that will improve the visitor circulation numbers.”