Mall beginnings: Kareem Shamma

By far the largest shopping centre currently under development in Qatar, Doha Festival City is likely to become the country’s first true ‘destination mall’. Kareem Shamma, chief executive of the centre, says the retail market is hotting up nicely

Driving around Doha, evidence of Qatar’s rampant redevelopment agenda is at every turn. From the myriad road works to an entire metro rail system, sports stadia and new residential and commercial towers under construction, it’s a city in full transformation mode as it hurtles towards 2022 and hosting the FIFA World Cup tournament.

About 15km north of downtown Doha and another sign of the capital’s burgeoning industries is literally rising from the desert on Al Shamal Road.

Identifiable currently by the Middle East’s biggest IKEA store, which opened last March, work on the remainder of the QR6bn ($1.6bn) Doha Festival City (DFC) project is now well under way.

When finished, it will be Doha’s biggest mall with a total gross leasable area (GLA) of 250,000sqm and the third of joint-venture partner Al Futtaim Group’s Festival City-branded destinations in the Middle East, after Dubai and Cairo. Comprising 550 outlets, it will feature a 15-screen cinema and an indoor-outdoor entertainment park, as well as the city’s first mall with an integrated hotel and conference centre.

“The sheer scale and size of the project by far outstrips anything else that’s being planned at the moment in Qatar and certainly one of the largest in the Middle East,” CEO of Doha Festival City Kareem Shamma tells Arabian Business.

Sitting in his office on the second storey of a modestly sized temporary office erected on the construction site, Shamma has reason to be pushing the mall’s advantages despite the fact that it’s still two years until the first shopper is expected to amble through the doors.

While Qatar currently has 13 operational commercial malls, according to local real estate consultancy Al Asmakh Real Estate Development Co (AREDC), this number is set to double by 2018 with another 13 mall projects creating a net leasable area as high as 1.72 million square metres. Of that total, four new and two existing malls, comprising 650,000sqm, are located on Al Shamal Road.

The impact will mean a growth in organised retail space within Qatar from 285 sqm for every 1,000 people to 900 sqm per 1,000 people. At present the region’s leading shopping hub, Dubai, offers 1,380sqm in retail space per 1000 residents, while in the US this figure is 1,030 sqm per 1,000 people.

AREDC says DFC is to occupy the greatest slice of the new mall pie at 20 percent of upcoming supply distribution. By comparison, the Mall of Qatar, which is set to open a year earlier, and is arguably the most high profile of Doha’s new mall developments, having  even been described as the “nation’s mall”, has a 160,000sqm planned GLA, or about 8 percent of that pie.

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