Dubai: The narrative in the Dubai’s mall landscape is changing. If it was ‘new build’ right up to the end of the decade gone by, it is now being taken over by ‘expansion’ or ‘extension’.

And it is not just the city’s older malls that are engaged in a bit of stretching of the possibilities. The Dubai Mall has just started ground work on its 1 million square feet expansion programme, while Dragon Mart too is in the swing of things on a major drive. Of course, there is the new mall coming up on the Palm, but as such new mall developments are certainly in the minority.

“We could say that the continued improvement and reinvention of Dubai’s older malls is not an option but a necessity in an increasingly competitive market,” said Craig Plumb of Jones Lang LaSalle. “As the market matures over the next 10 years we are likely to see far more extensions and renovations to existing projects and less [of the] brand new malls.

“The essential objective of any mall redevelopment — or repositioning — should be to improve the tenant mix and therefore increase the turnover and level of retail spending that can be attracted. This represents a win for retailers and centre owners. Improving the tenant mix may not require any physical redevelopment, but will require active management and a clear strategy in terms of lease renewals and relocations within the mall.”

The ones to look out for are:

* Deira City Centre

The development since its opening in 1995 has set the tone and tenor for the local and the region’s mall sector. In the recent past, it had already gone through some marked changes by way of tenant mix changes and extracting more by rejigging its available leasable area.

Currently, it is working on a Dh22 million redevelopment, which includes a more open floor plan for the Centre Court as well as the addition of a direct access ramp to the Metro Link.

“This announcement is in line with Deira City Centre’s vision to transform itself as a new, modern lifestyle destination,” said Fuad Mansoor Sharaf, senior director of property management at Majid Al Futtaim Properties, in a statement.

According to Plumb, “The centre has also been repositioned as a more mid market/value conscious destination in recent years, with the clearest example of this being the replacement of the Bin Hendi luxury outlet with the more mid-market Iconic store. This repositioning better aligns Deira City Centre with the needs of its local catchment population.”

* Burjuman Centre

The addition of a cinema and a Carrefour supermarket will certainly give a major tweak to what Burjuman has been known for.

“Shoppers who visit a mall want to shop for their daily needs and at the same time have entertainment options available on-hand,” said Eisa Ebrahim of the mall. “The latest redevelopment is expected to further enhance our appeal by offering shoppers greater convenience and access to a full-fledged Carrefour, extended family entertainment options, new F&B outlets and the addition of several new fashion and other brands to our retail portfolio, some of which will be making their first appearance in the region.”

* Wafi Mall

Wafi Mall’s stated intention from the re-development programme is to enhance the ‘social component’ in its offerings. Phase one saw the addition of more F&B outlets along with a family entertainment cluster.

“We are investing heavily in the creation of a new traditional food court housing many of the world’s leading fast-food brands, in a new location,” said the Mall’s group marketing and property director, Richard Billington. “This will act as a mini anchor and as part of the redesign, it will drive people into what is presently a quiet area of the mall.”

The redevelopment also creates opportunities in other areas, such as alleyways, which were part of the original design from 20 years ago, to open up the mall and create brighter areas. This, the mall management believes, would enhance the pedestrian traffic flow.

“We recognise that we cannot compete with the likes of mega-malls,” said Billington. “But at the same time, we know that not everyone enjoys the ‘mega’ experience, and we will fill that void. We don’t intend to stop here. The feasibility study for a second phase of development, which will include some novel retailing concepts, will be completed by the end of 2013.”

* Al Ghurair Centre

Dubai’s original mall will open the doors to its newly expanded self later this year. A firm date has not been set.

“Al Ghurair Centre was at the forefront 31 years ago and what we are doing now is a re-imagining of what it will be for the future,” said David Thurling, who heads the mall operations. “We had land available to us and there was no need to build on top of the existing facility but outward.

“The retail mix will predetermine what the shopper profile will be.”