The first phase of Dubai’s newest mall, the Festival Waterfront Centre, is set to open during the upcoming Dubai Shopping Festival, with pre-opening celebrations kicking off this evening.
Set to be the world’s seventh largest when it is finished in the summer of 2007, the mall will host 550 retail outlets and some 90 food and beverage offerings. It is part of Dubai Festival City (DFC), which is being developed by the Al Futtaim Group.
The first phase of DFC is being developed at a cost of $6.1 billion, said Phil McArthur. This is being funded by the Al Futtaim Group as well as by banks such as the Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and the National Bank of Dubai.
In total, DFC is expected to have about 800 stores over just under three million square feet of gross leasable area – not counting parking, walkways and other complementary space – and the development expects to pull away shoppers from other retail areas in the emirate, said McArthur.
“This is a competitive business and the only way to grow is either by attracting new business or by stealing old business from your competition. We have 400 brands here, all of whom want to turn a high profit,” he said at a press conference, in response to a tradearabia.com query.
Experts will privately admit that Dubai’s mushrooming new retail developments are impacting existing shopping complexes, and the massive Majid Al Futtaim-owned Mall of the Emirates, which opened last year, is cited as the first to actually impact traffic to other malls.
Dubai has 14 million square feet of organised retail in shopping centres, not counting high street stores and souks, said McArthur, and says that developments already announced are set to more than double this figure to between 35 and 40 million square feet of gross leasable area.
Among the prominent ones are Emaar’s Dubai Mall and the Galadaris’ Mall of Arabia, both being billed as the largest in the world.
“We’re in a cycle where there’s more demand than space, and we may see an oversupply in the future,” he said.
“There are going to be winners and losers, and from other markets, the losers tend to be older, smaller and outdated centres that do not have a wide brand offering or the right customer services.”
When asked when this oversupply was likely to be come about, McArthur said he did not expect all the announced developments to actually be built, but even if they did, each would have its own trading zone.
“As long as there’s not too much competition in each area, we’ll all do okay.”
McArthur says the catchment area for his mall is “the world”, pointing to Dubai’s growing population and Emirates’ airlines ever-increasing network.
In terms of retail alone, the development expects a footprint of between 50,000 and 60,000 people a day, going up to 100,000 on peak weekends and holidays. This adds up to somewhere between 20 and 25 million people a year, said McArthur.
The Festival Waterfront Centre will host 25 anchor and flagship stores – the largest collective number in the Middle East – as well as many new-to-market speciality boutiques and international brands.
These include the largest Marks & Spencer outside the UK, at 60,000 sq ft, complete with food hall; an iconic 48,000 sq ft Paris Gallery; Anne Klein; Esprit; men’s store Markati Palazzo; Nike; Timberland; Toys R Us; and more.
When completed, 90 eclectic restaurants, bistros and cafés will pepper the complex, and guests will be able to enjoy dining al fresco, on Canal Walk, a unique crescent shaped waterfront destination.
Some 40 restaurants and cafés along the length of the 450m canal will offer a mix of international cuisine.
The Skywalk Entertainment Level, scheduled to open later in 2007 features the 12 screen Grand Cinema, Fitness First, Skywalk Food Court, Electronics Collection, Bowling City and a Family Entertainment Centre.
“Festival Waterfront Centre will bring together the most diverse selection of waterfront dining venues, retail brands and entertainment in the Middle East at an exceptional creek-side location. This is a first for Dubai and the Middle East,” said McArthur.
Festival Waterfront Centre follows the successful progressive opening of Dubai’s first ‘big box’ retailers at Festival Power Centre. In November 2005, ‘big box’ anchor retailer IKEA opened, followed in May 2006 by HyperPanda Hypermarket, Ace Hardware and Plug-Ins Electronix. Festival Power Centre also has a strong assortment of service, lifestyle and convenience shops. These are soon to be integrated with Festival Waterfront Centre.
“DFC was a concept envisaged by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, towards the future growth of Dubai as a world-renowned retail and tourism destination,” said Omar Al-Futtaim, CEO of the Al-Futtaim Group.
“The Al Futtaim Group is proud to be part of the realization of this vision with the opening of Festival Waterfront Centre. Festival Waterfront Centre will be a landmark on Dubai's ever-expanding skyline that encapsulates the ongoing commitment of the Al Futtaim Group to bring to the UAE unprecedented standards through its numerous activities in the automotive, electronics, retail, services and properties sectors,” Al Futtaim added.
A major feature of the progressive opening of Festival Waterfront Centre will be waterside dining and retail pavilions located just across Canal Walk and overlooking Festival Marina. One of the pavilions, ‘Trade Routes’, has been designed with influences from the ancient trading networks to create an authentic Arabian environment and to offer merchandise from across the region.
The second pavilion will boasts an array of popular international dining and nightspot venues.
The creek-side promenade will extend the full length of the development with access to more than 100 berths at Festival Marina. Guests will be able to dock at the quayside wall, then shop, dine, or simply enjoy the ambience and entertainment.
Festival Marina is scheduled to open in early 2007.
Another 2007 opening will be the 25,000 square foot Dubai Gold Marketplace featuring 60 shops that will showcase the finest collections from the world’s leading gold retailers, as well as offering custom made designs in a relaxed comfortable air-conditioned environment.
With several luxury hotels part of the complex, including the InterContinental, the Four Seasons and the W, DFC is set to add another 200 shops in a luxury precinct of about 400,000 sq ft.
The heart of the Centre will be the dramatic Festival Square with its stunning cascades light and water feature. This meeting place will be the perfect setting for world class exhibitions and fashion shows with the Creek and Canal Walk as its vista.
With the completion of the 12-lane Ras Al Khor Bridge and road network in early 2007, three dedicated off ramps will lead directly to DFC, making this one of the most accessible destinations in Dubai.
This will be further enhanced with the addition of the new Garhoud Bridge and ongoing improvements to Dubai’s infrastructure.
Additionally, Dubai International Airport is just two kilometres away and new roadworks will connect DFC to Sharjah and the other emirates.
“All roads are leading to Dubai Festival City,” said McArthur.
“We’re all proud to say this is the place for modern Arabia.”
DFC is a world class waterfront lifestyle resort, offering a rich and vibrant living experience that encompasses the finest and easily accessible shopping, dining, entertainment, homes, schools, hotels, offices and leisure in one place.