The race to develop Abu Dhabi’s second super regional shopping centre is officially on after Abu Dhabi’s Urban Planning Council granted the Reem Mall detailed planning approval.
Reem Mall, a planned 2 million square feet shopping centre on the south side of Abu Dhabi’s Reem Island, is vying with nearby Al Maryah Central, a planned 2.3 million square feet mall on Al Maryah Island, to become the capital’s second vast shopping emporium after the 2.5 million sq ft Yas Mall, which opened its doors in November 2014.
Following the UPC’s approval of the concept in July, enabling works started on the US$1 billion Reem Mall at the end of last month.
A contract for the main construction work is expected to be awarded in March.
Plans for Reem Mall were originally drawn up by the Kuwaiti developer National Real Estate Company (NREC) before the global financial crisis.
The vision appeared unlikely to materialise until June last year, when fellow Kuwaiti developer United Projects for Aviation Services Company agreed to invest up to US$224 million in the project through its subsidiary, Al Arfaj Real Estate.
This means that the developers expect construction of Reem Mall to be completed in 2018, the same year that the US developer Gulf Related plans to open its Al Maryah Central mall just a stone’s throw away on Al Maryah Island.
“We believe that the retail market in Abu Dhabi is big enough to accommodate two new major retail projects,” said Shane Eldstrom, the chief operating officer for Reem Mall during an event on Tuesday at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Abu Dhabi. “We are very much a family offering, while we believe Al Maryah Central, which is anchored by Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, is more of an upper end offering.”
The Al Maryah Central project broke ground in November 2014 and the main contractor, Brookfield Multiplex, started construction in August 2015.
At a media event last month, Gulf Related executives said that they were confident they had “first mover advantage” in the race to build Abu Dhabi’s next big mall.
NREC said that it was hoping to achieve an Estidama sustainability rating of two pearls, above the compulsory rating set by the Abu Dhabi government, despite the fact that its plans include the largest indoor snow play park. “Once you get the temperature down to minus five degrees, the park operates more like a refrigerated warehouses so it is a lot more energy efficient than you would expect,” Mr Eldstrom said.
A second phase of the Reem Mall project is slated to include 40,000 sq metres of hotel space, 35,000 sq metres of housing and 25,000 sq metres of offices.