DUBAI // It is already one of the most traffic-congested parts of Dubai. Now residents and businesses in Jumeirah Beach Residence are waiting with trepidation as work begins on a new mall.
JBR Walk, the one-way, two-lane street that leads from one end of JBR to the other, is often backed up to the bridge leading to its entrance.
Now, as The National reported last week, Meraas Holding is building a mall with shops and restaurants extending nearly a kilometre along the beach from the Hilton Hotel at one end to the Sheraton Hotel at the other.
Dubai Properties Group (DPG), the owner of JBR, promises that the new project will add value to the area, and some existing business operators agree.
“The more people we get, the more customers we’ll have,” said Maher Mrabet, assistant store manager of Tim Hortons. “If they can accommodate the parking needs, all of us can benefit from this.”
Traffic and parking, however, have many residents worried.
Joe Nicolas, who lives in the Al Bahar sector of JBR, said: “They are going to mess up the whole neighbourhood and no one is going to find a place to park.”
Weekend evenings are particularly congested. “For us it’s all right because we have parking in our buildings, but what happens to visitors who are not allowed to park there?” asked Evguenia Demenko, from Russia.
“I really hope they’ve studied this well,” said Wael Khodor, assistant manager at Il Caffe Di Roma. “If there’s a mall … it will get even more crowded.”
Mohammed Selim Mohammed, manager of El Chico Mexican Restaurant, has lost half his customers since Eid because of heavy traffic.
“We had a customer who came in the other day saying he loves our food, but might stop coming because the traffic is so bad,” he said. “If they’re going to do this, I really hope that the property management will help us find a solution.”
Dubai Traffic Police are also concerned about the new mall’s effect on traffic, but they will wait until the project is complete before establishing the extent of the problem and finding a solution.
“The traffic in Dubai Marina in general is definitely worse than other areas,” said Lt Imran Abdullah. “There is traffic and congestion there every day and it will make it worse if there is an extra mall.
“There are already traffic police in the Marina, more than usual because of the recent holidays. A lot of people have been complaining to us already because there are too many cars on JBR Walk.”
DPG said the new development, due for completion in less than 18 months, would not drastically affect the area.
“During the construction phase, Meraas Holding has put plans in place to minimise inconvenience to the community and include additional temporary parking as well as traffic management,” said a spokesman. “Residents and visitors will continue to have access to the beach through pedestrian crossings adjacent to the car park.”
DPG said the mall was designed to ensure that residents’ sea views would not be blocked, but some are still concerned.
“JBR was first marketed as a lifetime experience of luxury and relaxation with beautiful views of the beach,” Mr Nicolas said.
“Now it’s turned into completely the opposite. I just don’t understand. Why kill a beautiful beachfront for another mall?”