IMG Group seeks builders for Dubai’s Mall of Arabia

Tenders for Mall of Arabia are set to go out next year as the US$1 billion IMG Worlds of Adventure theme park is gearing up for opening in the middle of 2014.

The constructed frame for City of Arabia located near Global Village. Razan Alzayani / The National
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The developer behind a US$1 billion Dubailand theme park due to open next year is preparing to seek builders for the long-awaited Mall of Arabia.

Tenders for the planned mall are set to go out next year as Ilyas and Mustafa Galadari (IMG) Group expects to open Dubai's first theme park complex within its City of Arabia development by the middle of 2014.

The IMG Worlds of Adventure theme park will comprise the first phase of the mixed-use project City of Arabia project located on Emirates Road. The mall is part of the second phase. The overall development will also include a 12-screen cinema.

The mall was initially designed to be spread over 4 million square feet in the first phase and 1,000 shops. Mashreq and Al Hilal bank helped to provide finance for the theme park according to Adam Alexander Page, group vice president for marketing at IMG Group.

Theme parks and entertainment districts are central to Dubai’s tourism, retail and property sectors. The vast Dubailand development, of which City of Arabia is a part, was originally announced in 2003 but many of its projects fell by the wayside during the 2008-09 financial crisis. Now, some, like City of Arabia, are being revived. Much of the project infrastructure was complete in 2008.

“Theme parks are absolutely necessary [to broaden the offerings of Dubai] because these are missing from its tourism portfolio,” said Jeff Strachan, general manager at Abu Dhabi-based Insights management consultancy, who is responsible for the hospitality and tourism segment.

“There are a lot of planning and talks going on behind the scenes to broaden the theme park offerings of Dubai for it to continue to cater to a wide demographics and vast range of source markets and provide enough for guests to come back.”

Damac Properties is working with the Hollywood movie distributor and producer Paramount Pictures on another theme project under way in the city. The development near Burj Khalifa is expected to be complete in 2016.

The developer Union Properties, will also build a theme park that will include residential units among the six projects worth Dh1.5 billion that it announced last week.

IMG’s 1.5 million sq ft theme park complex will have rides, retail shops and restaurants in four sections: Lost Valley--Dinosaur Adventure, Marvel, Cartoon Network and IMG Boulevard.

The group, which owns the Lost Valley theme park, is also expecting to take it international.

“The market has changed a lot and the master plan of City of Arabia has changed as well,” Mr Page said.

City of Arabia has restarted work on residential properties, and its Wadi Tower is almost “90 per cent complete”, he said. “A lot more people are settling in Dubai and demands for towers and villas are very high.”

The first Wadi Tower apartments are due to be handed over by the end of this year.

The City of Arabia master plan would further change if Dubai is successful in attracting the Expo 2020 bid, Mr Page said. The announcement for the winning bid is due on November 27.

Dubai has set a goal of 20 million visitors by 2020.

Hotels are already a part of the City of Arabia project to cater to the theme park complex, which expects to be more than a day’s worth of visit.

The massive central steel structure of the theme park complex will be complete by the end of October.

“A huge amount of work is being done off-site internationally, and all will be shipped in,” Mr Page said.

The IMG Group is working with several European, Canadian and American ride vendors, such as Mack Rides from Germany, to fill the interiors.