Shoppers at Dubai Festival City mall’s extension area. With Carrefour to open soon, Robinsons opening in March and an extended food court, visitor traffic is growing. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archive

Dubai

Even in the final stretch of its Dh1.5 billion expansion, the developer of Dubai Festival City Mall is thinking of what next. And it could find an answer close at hand.

A vast swathe of land on the southern side of the mall is relatively undeveloped and will form the ideal platform to push the boundaries of the mall, according to a top official at Al-Futtaim Group Real Estate. The when and the how will be decided later.

“It’s an area very near the water (the Dubai Creek) and still has a lot of potential,” said Steven Cleaver, the Group’s Director — Shopping Centres Dubai. “The southern side — where the helipad used to be — offers us more opportunities to stretch the mall. There is a lot of work being done to review the master plan.

“It’s pertinent that we finish what we started. The gross leasable area after the expansion comes to 2.43 million square feet.

“We have always made clear that malls are constantly evolving. We put Dh1.5 billion into the expansion — but that can never be the end of it.” (The northern side of the mall is pretty well taken care of, with the March opening of the Robinsons department store as a key anchor tenant.)

As it is, the entire Festival City master-development is also in an expansion mode. And within the mall, the coming weeks will see a further change ... and a notable one at that.

Hyperpanda, which was the hypermarket anchor since the mall opened a decade ago, has vacated the scene and thus setting the stage for Carrefour to move in.

“Bringing Carrefour — the leading hypermarket in the region — is not going to only strengthen that side of the mall (which also has Ikea), but bring benefits to the entire property,” said Cleaver. “We expect them to open before Ramadan.

“It will be done seamlessly — it was important that Hyperpanda exited clean and Carrefour move in at the earliest. Hyperpanda leaving was part of our strategic plan for the mall.

“We still have areas within the mall that can be developed ... there are opportunities to freshen up.”

The opening of Robinsons and a fully function extended food court is helping with the visitor traffic. There was a 35-40 per cent gain in the first three months and that comes on top of a similar surge for the whole of 2016.

“When you consider that Hyperpanda was closed for two to three weeks, we are still maintaining the numbers. When Carrefour opens, we are confident about a bigger increase.”

But there are no plans to raise the parking bays beyond the around 900 slots added recently near the Toys “R” Us entrance.

But for the developer, there is a lot to do on the Jebel Ali side of town. It is where Al-Futtaim Group will build a community mall as part of a residential community built and managed by Wasl Properties.

“We are in the middle of the tendering for the new mall,” said Cleaver. “The main works package needs to start by August.”

The property will be 55,000 square metres and will set the template for mid-sized malls the developer has plans for. These will typically be between 50,000- to 100,000 square metres.

As to the likely branding, that’s still being worked on. “When we look to the future when we will open more such malls, there needs to be some synergy,” the official added. “With Dubai Festival City, Cairo Festival City and Doha Festival City we are starting to build a synonymous brand.

“But the property in Jebel Ali will look and feel different. We are taking some time to name it — it’s deliberate. I am hoping within the next three months to have one.”