Doha unveils an unprecedented project for a shopping centre
In full development mode, the number of construction sites destined for tourist and commercial uses in Qatar’s capital is multiplying. Among its new projects, the Katara Plaza shopping centre in Doha stands out for its original concept. It is set to open in September 2016.
The 410,000 ft² space will hold a Galeries Lafayette (150,000 ft² over 3 levels), some 30 stores covering 194,000 ft², a centre entirely dedicated to children (37,000 ft²) with a rather kitsch building in the shape of a present featuring brands, restaurants and special activities, an Evian spa centre (30,000 ft²) as well as 2,000 parking spots.
The project was presented in Doha on 8 March to a panopoly of celebrities, such as Patrick Chalhoub, CEO of the Chalhoub group, synonymous with luxury in the Middle East, and the ambassador of France in Qatar, Eric Chevallier. Representatives from several brands were also present from Dolce & Gabbana to Cartier.
This shopping centre, which will consist of two large wings of buildings along a shady avenue, in a Victorian architectural style with rows of columns, will feature an unprecedented open-air air conditioning system, allowing visitors to cross from one wing to the other and the courtyard without being subjected to the insufferable heat of the summer. It is the same system that will be used in Qatar’s stadiums, which will host the World Cup in 2022.
Katara Plaza will be located in the centre of the Katara site, which spans across more than 21 million ft² of terrain between the West Bay business area and the new luxury residential district The Pearl in the north of Doha. The mall is indeed part of a vast real estate operation launched in 2010, with a huge « cultural village » erected over the past few years with mosques, an open-air theatre, an Italian-style opera, a dramatic arts theatre, a concert hall, etc. It will also have two new residential areas.
This ambitious project by Katara is being promoted by the government of the Emirate of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, who is the main investor. 250 million dollars for its construction is being financed be by the government, while the Ali Bin Ali Group (ABA Group), the leader in distribution in Qatar with 80 % of the consumer goods market and shopping centre operations covered, is investing 200 million dollars. The latter has signed a 20-year contract.
The Ali Bin Ali Group has been active in various sectors for 60 years, including distribution, notably with watch and jewellery labels like Cartier, Dunhill, Montblanc, Panerai and Van Cleef & Arpels, which it sells through chain stores and its own multibrand stores ABA Watches & Jewelry, while for fashion it is a distributor of names like Ermanno Scervino and Philipp Plein.
Ali Bin Ali has some big ambitions with Katara Plaza, with the goal being to attract a clientele in the mid- to high-end range for accessible and upscale luxury. The centre will thus not have any supermarkets or food courts but instead real restaurants (7, including 4 in the Galeries Lafayette), an art gallery and an antiques shop.
Nothing has yet been revealed in terms of the brands that will be installed in the centre, except that jeweller Graff has signed a contract for 900m². According to our sources, Saint Laurent is looking to acquire 5,400 ft². Everything will depend on the balance of the mid-range, affordable luxury and very high-end names.
“We want to offer just the right blend. It won’t be the ABA mall. The number of stores will depend on the number of square feet requested by the brands, which require much bigger spaces now than in the past. We are betting on the major potential of the site, which already welcomes several millions of visitors,” stated the president of the group, Nabeel Ali Bin Ali.
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