x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Abu Dhabi developer plans $1bn mega mall at Al Maryah Island

Property developer Gulf Related today announced plans to build a $1bn shopping centre next to the Sowwah Square on Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi.

How the Sowwah Central development could look when complete. Illustration courtesy of Gulf Related.
How the Sowwah Central development could look when complete. Illustration courtesy of Gulf Related.
Another mega mall is set to be built in Abu Dhabi, as plans were outlined for a US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) shopping and leisure complex next to the Sowwah Square financial centre.

Gulf Related, a joint venture between the Abu Dhabi-based Gulf Capital and US-based retail developer Related Companies, said yesterday that it planned to build a 214,000-square metre shopping centre next to Mubadala Development's giant Sowwah Square office and designer shopping complex.

Gulf Related, the developer behind the Time Warner Centre in New York, said the new mall would be Abu Dhabi's "first super regional urban shopping centre".

Last month it bought the 13-acre plot of land on Al Maryah Island, on which the mall will be built.

The proposed development will include two 20,000-square metre department stores - one of which is likely to be Bloomingdale's - as well as 300 fashion retailers, 80 cafes and restaurants, a cinema, a health club, a hotel, serviced apartments and flats.

Kenneth Himmel, the president and chief executive of Related, said yesterday that the company was in discussions with Gulf Capital's 250 pension fund and sovereign wealth fund shareholders as well as banks to form a "club of like-minded investors" and to raise the $1bn needed to build the vast Sowwah Central shopping mall.

Mr Himmel said that he expected to be able to make an announcement about the financing of the project in 60 days and that the company was also looking to finance the project through the bond market.

"We don't want to over-leverage the project so the percentage of debt on this project will be somewhere in the 50 to 60 per cent range. So there's a very substantial amount of equity going into the project," he said. "We have put the final touches on our equity. We are in final negotiations on our bank financing,"

He said the Elkus Manfredi designed mall would open in 2017.

The developer, which is already partnering Mubadala to build the 51,000 square metre The Galleria mall, the luxury retail element of Sowwah Square, which it is set to open in August, said The Galleria is now 100 per cent leased with new brands signed up including Dior, Burberry and Ralph Lauren. Mubadala is a strategic investment company owned by the Abu Dhabi Government.

"The names that are not on the plan - names like Hermès and Chanel - it isn't that they didn't want to be here, it's that we didn't have any room left," said Mr Himmel.

The news comes less than a week after TDIC and a property company linked to Louis Vuitton announced that they are to develop a 168,000 square metre luxury shopping mall on nearby Saadiyat Island. It also comes as Aldar prepares to open the 235,000 square metre Yas Mall shopping centre on Yas Island.

"I think everyone is legitimately concerned about how much [new retail space] is coming online," said Mr Himmel.

"I think though that if we look at Yas, it's more of a destination and entertainment experience.

"We view Saadiyat as a great plus because international brands and local operators view these as very complementary projects. They are committing to go to both."