The opening of Arena Mall in Dubai Sports City has been postponed until 2013 when it is hoped more of the surrounding residential developments will be filled with potential shoppers. The 340-shop mall was to open this year to cater for an expected 70,000 residents of the mixed-use city, which features sport venues such as an 18-hole golf course at The Els Club and will have an estimated 1.2 million people living nearby.
But as work slowed at surrounding projects, developers decided to hold off, said Sam Sayadan, the retail development manager at Dubai Sports City. "We don't want to bring such a big retail establishment if we don't have enough to support it," he said. "A mall that size [of 130,000 square metres] requires all the catchment from Jumeirah Village and the rest of the projects on Emirates Road. "If those things are lagging, there is no real reason to open that mall from a retail point of view if you don't have the catchment at your doorstep."
Arena Mall will instead open by the end of 2013, he said. The Dubai Sports City developers are shifting their focus to the 21 retail units in Canal Residence West, which will be ready for residents in the fourth quarter of this year, he said. The move comes after a difficult year for retailers, with consumers watching their budgets more carefully because of the economic downturn. A wave of new retail space in Dubai over the past year has increased competition to attract shoppers. The 1.12 million sq metre Dubai Mall opened in November 2008 with 600 stores and added more last year. At least three other malls - Oasis Centre, Dubai Marina Mall and Arabian Centre - also opened.
With this as a backdrop, it is a "wise" choice to postpone Arena Mall until the environment improves, said Laurent-Patrick Gally, a retail analyst with Shuaa Capital in Dubai. "Otherwise, they might be running the risk of entering an increasingly crowded mall market, which is not good for the returns of the mall. "In the last 18 months, there has been a lot of new retail space, and this year we will see the addition of Mirdif City Centre. For anyone who hasn't started the groundwork, it makes sense to wait a little bit more to have more population and much stronger economic conditions."
The piling and foundation work on Arena Mall was finished last October, but construction had not begun, Mr Sayadan said. The French retailer Carrefour signed on as an anchor tenant in October 2008, committing to a 13,000 sq metre hypermarket, but Dubai Sports City will hold off on leasing the rest of the mall for now, Mr Sayadan added. Arena Mall would have cost about Dh2 billion (US$545 million) to build when originally planned, he said, but costs had come down.
Leasing of the 21 retail shops in Canal Residence West is under way. Seven retailers, including Al Maya Group supermarkets, Al Shafar pharmacies and Alpha Optical, have signed on, and Mr Sayadan expects the space to be fully leased by next year. @Email:email@example.com