First for a shopping centre in UAE

Developers say Mirdif City Centre will be the first shopping centre in the UAE to open 100% complete.

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DUBAI // When Mirdif City Centre opens in the first quarter of next year, it will be the first shopping centre in the UAE to open 100 per cent complete, the developers say. "I think shoppers in Dubai are now tired of going into projects that are still construction sites," said Richard Reid, the senior vice president of development for Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) properties, which is building the mall. "We want to set a new benchmark." The 196,000 square metre mall in Dubai's Mirdif area, which will have about 430 shops, was 90 per cent leased, he said. The group aims to have 98 per cent of the Dh2.6 billion (US$707.8 million) shopping centre leased by July. When it opens in the first quarter of 2010, Mirdif City Centre will be entering a highly competitive market. Four malls have opened in Dubai in the past six months, including the 80,000 sq metre Arabian Centre, also located in Mirdif. However, Mr Reid is banking on its entertainment offering - 10 per cent of the mall has been allocated to leisure facilities, such as an indoor skydiving chamber - and its location near developing residential areas to draw shoppers. MAF forecasts there will be roughly 718,000 residents in the mall's catchment area by 2010 - 230,000 of which will be in the mall's surrounding area. About 42 per cent of the centre's stores will be dedicated to fashion and lifestyle brands, including anchor stores H&M and Zara. About 14 per cent will consist of electronics and home stores, such as Home Centre. The mall's original opening date was Dec 2009, but it was pushed back because of delays building nearby roads, said Shahram Shamsaee, the senior vice president of retail for Majid Al Futtaim Shopping Malls. Roughly 6,600 workers are working 24 hours a day to get it ready. Retailers were responsible for building the stores themselves, but MAF would give the brands early access, he said. "Traditionally in the UAE, malls open at best with 40 to 50 per cent stores open. We are looking at the high 90s," said Mr Shamsaee. Naeem Ghafoor, the chief executive of Skyline Retail Services consultancy in Dubai, said it was difficult to set a hard deadline in this economic climate. "It is very, very hard to take a date in the future and say you will be open. Because the crisis gets worse." The population in the Mirdif area of Dubai was likely to decrease in the wake of the crisis, he added. However, MAF had a strong track record of mall development, he said. "When recovery comes, I'm sure Mirdif will probably do OK. But I don't see it in 2010," he said. "They're going to have a tough time until the market does recover."