A Dh2 billion project to almost double the retail space at Dubai’s oldest mall was unveiled yesterday.
Al Ghurair Centre in Deira opened in 1981, many years before the so-called destination malls that have helped to put Dubai on the map.
Before the extension opened, the mall featured a retail area totalling 480,000 square feet, with about 220 stores, 20 food and beverage outlets and an eight-screen cinema.
The expansion project has added a food court, family entertainment centre featuring an ice rink, indoor rollercoaster and other rides in addition to more than 130 new stores. These include Marks & Spencer, Mango, Iconic, Omega, Cortefiel and Calzedonia, bringing the total retail area to more than 850,000 sq ft.
“The reality is the mall is the oldest mall in Dubai and at one point in time it was the place, the pioneering shopping mall in the city, which is now full of shopping malls,” said David Thurling, the vice president of malls for Al Ghurair Properties.
“Al Ghurair Centre for quite some time lost some of its relevancy to the new kids on the block. So what we are doing is making it relevant again and making it relevant in a way which I think is unique. We are simply not trying to replicate the tried and trusted formula, which let’s be honest, every shopping mall has,” he added.
The mall intends to create a district around the shopping centre and space for street theatre, art and music, which will give a different feel to rival malls, said Mr Thurling. “In many ways, the centre will build on the inherent vibrancy of the surrounding streets to create a bustling experience similar to places like Greenwich Village in New York or Covent Garden in London,” said Mr Thurling.
Over time he hopes that Al Ghurair Centre will become a tourist attraction renowned for its street festivals, public art pieces and ongoing community-driven activities.
“We still at the end of the day offer a mix of retail brands that are common in a lot of the malls but because we can’t compete with 1,200 stores at Dubai Mall, we have to try and appeal through different ways.”