Abu Dhabi has taken over Dubai as the Middle East capital for shopping centre construction, according to an annual review of new retail space.
The capital has 778,000 square metres of new retail space in its development pipeline, also placing it among the top cities globally for shopping centre development, the research by global property advisor CBRE shows.
During 2013, Abu Dubai delivered 168,000 sqm of retail space, placing it in 18th position globally for shopping centre space completed, and number one in the GCC region.
In comparison, last year Dubai delivered 35,000 sqm of retail space.
“Retrospectively, Abu Dhabi has had quite a lot of stock under construction but the delivery in 2013 and future pipeline is now ahead of Dubai for the first time ever since we started the survey in 2002,” CBRE Middle East managing director Nick Maclean told Arabian Business.
The UAE as a whole ranked eighth on the CBRE list of cities according to shopping centre space under construction.
“The other interesting thing is the size of the countries ahead of the UAE – China, Russia, Turkey Indonesia, the Philippines. With the exception of Turkey, they all have a population of more than 100m [compared to the UAE’s 9m],” Maclean said.
“Once again, we see the UAE significantly pushing above its weight.”
Maclean said a survey based on retailers due to be released in May was expected to show that while Dubai was still ahead of Abu Dhabi in terms of retailer demand for leasing space, the UAE capital was catching up.
Abu Dhabi’s new centres include the huge Yas Mall on Yas Island, which is due for completion in the final quarter of 2014, Capital Mall in Mussafah and Sowwah Central on Al Maryah Island.
CBRE said the increasing demand for retail space in the UAE was driven by strong economic growth and an increase in tourists and expatriates.
Occupancy rates also remain high, particularly in the major malls where less than 5 percent of space is empty. The larger centres have also benefited from a buoyant hospitality market which has boosted visitor numbers.
A quarter of all shopping centre construction in Dubai is extensions to new centres, including key locations, Mall of Emirates and Dubai Mall, on the back of strong occupier demand.
Maclean said Abu Dhabi would continue to have more shopping centre construction than Dubai over the next 12 months before the level equalled out.
“The UAE as a whole is going to be much further up the scale than eighth place,” he said.
Across the world’s main cities, a total of 39m sqm of shopping centre space is currently under construction, up 3m sqm from 2013.
China is by far leading the way, with more than half of the shopping centre space under construction in the 180 countries surveyed.
Shanghai takes first position with 3.3m sqm of space under construction – more than the combined total of all 86 European cities excluding those in Russia and Turkey.
Other markets in the top ten include Istanbul, Wuhan, Moscow, Beijing, Nanjing, and Guangzhou.
Istanbul has 27 centres, or 1.9m sqm currently under construction.