Shopping Centers Today International

JAN 2016

Shopping Centers Today is the news magazine of the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)

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Page 51 of 59

O N T H E G R O U N D : S H a R j a H , U a E New developments are about to transform the emirate Development in Sharjah, capital city of the Emirate of Sharjah, is often overshadowed by the building boom in Dubai, Sharjah's cos- mopolitan Persian Gulf neighbor to the south. But a spate of recently announced projects is now helping propel this United Arab Emirates sheikdom into the spotlight. Sharjah, long known to boast the best museums in the Emirates, received a UNESCO Arab Capital of Culture designation in 1998 for its historic Old Town and its Islamic cultural institutions. Sharjah's retail sector, however, though growing, has never been a big draw like Dubai's, according to Mat Green, head of research and consul- tancy at the CBRE Middle East office, in Abu Dhabi. "Sharjah is far more reliant upon local consumers, compared to Dubai, which also benefits from the flow of significant tourist dollars, with around 11 million visitors to the emirate each year," Green said. One big problem is the terrible traffic in this emirate of some 900,000 people, Green says, a result of inadequate infrastructure relative to Dubai's. But several retail centers are under construction or undergoing expansion, he points out, activity driven by a sustained population growth in view of the rising cost of living in Dubai. "It's like a bedroom community for Dubai," said Phil McArthur, founder and managing director of McArthur & Co., a Dubai-based shopping consulting firm. "Sharjah is a different world from Dubai — Dubai being glitzy, big-league and international, and Sharjah being more conservative, more Islamic and more middle-income." A hand- ful of major shopping centers do serve Sharjah, McArthur notes. "But they're not very exciting; they don't have many brands, and the offer- ing is not very strong," he said. That is about to change, though. Two years ago Majid Al Futtaim announced that it would expand its Sharjah City Centre, which opened in 2001, by an additional 145,000 square feet of gross leasable area. Once completed, the shopping center will offer 28 new store and dining outlets, a larger car park and a multiscreen cinema, among other improvements. Meanwhile, Sharjah Oasis Real Estate Development announced an ambitious project for the coastline: a 60 million-square-foot project called Sharjah Waterfront City, which will comprise 10 interconnected islands with 200 towers for residential, commercial and entertainment space. This is reportedly the largest project ever proposed for Sharjah, and its first phase is set to open in 2018. In October 2015 Line Investments & Property, the shopping mall and management arm of Abu Dhabi–based Lulu Group International, unveiled plans for Avenues Mall Sharjah, a 463,000-square-foot project with a hypermarket, a department store, a cinema and a family entertainment center, designed to offer midrange retail to a catchment area of about 600,000 people. One of the project's archi- tects, Davide Padoa, CEO of Design International, told the press that Avenues Mall will reflect Sharjah's cultural heritage. "The design is inspired by the traditional wooden boats, called abras, which are used to ferry people across the creek," he said. Tilal Properties, a joint venture between Sharjah Asset Manage- ment and Eskan Real Estate Development, recently announced plans to build a 25 million-square-foot mixed-used development of schools, mosques and a megamall called Al Tilal City. "So now there's going to be competition," McArthur noted, "be- tween the existing malls, trying to do whatever it takes in these typi- cally small sites to compete with the new guys that are coming in and giving the Sharjah fashion shopper more options." — Spencer Rumsey 52 S C T / J A N U A R y 2 0 1 6 R I P E F O R D E V E L O P M E N T S h a R j a h L I g h T F E S T I V a L

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