Dubai mega mall inspired by nature

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This is a city famous for the prevalence and grandeur of its malls that draw a well-heeled clientele from across the world. Dubai is home to what was until recently the largest mall in the world by total area, the world’s largest theme mall - inspired by a Moroccan explorer - and a mall with an indoor ski resort.

Now, Cityland Group, a developer best known for creating the world’s largest flower garden, is hoping to make a splash with a mall that lives and breathes.

Cityland Mall, a $400 million development set in the rapidly developing Dubailand neighborhood, is billed as “the world’s first nature-inspired shopping destination.”

The complex is built around a 200,000 square-foot botanical garden dubbed “Central Park,” a little smaller than four soccer fields.

‘Unique sensory experience’

The park will feature streams and islands, rare trees and flower gardens for shoppers to explore. The businesses surrounding the green space will accommodate a second layer of trees and gardens on their rooftops.

The green theme extends throughout the complex, says Fahimuddin Sharfuddin, CEO of Cityland Group, with tree-lined interior walkways and living “green walls” positioned in the main thoroughfares.

Avenues of trees and living walls will fill the mall's walkways.

The CEO is also keen to emphasize that the commitment to green also entails a raft of eco-friendly features. The gardens will be irrigated with treated sewage to avoid water wastage, and storm water will also be harvested.

“The skylights and facades are made from highly energy efficient glass which has reduced running power costs,” says Sharfuddin. “A large area on the roof of the building accommodates photovoltaic solar panels.”

The completed mall will host more than 300 businesses, eateries, and “attraction operators.” The first of these – international supermarket chain Carrefour – opened its doors on May 12 and Cityland is confident the rest of the site will be in business by the end of the year, with full occupancy by 2020.

Confirmed occupants include fashion chains Matalan, Riva Fashion, and Turkish store Ipekyol. VOX cinemas will have a 10-screen movie theater and there will be a Fabyland Family Entertainment Center.

Stiff competition

But the mall will face stiff competition to attract customers, according to retail sector analysts.

Dubai-based investment bank Alpen Capital projects that the city’s retail sales will grow over the next few years.

A renderong of the mall's Africa hall.

But things could be harder in the longer term. “The expanding organized retail and rising number of international brands has intensified competition resulting in margin pressures,” says Krishna Dhanak, executive director Alpen Capital.

Cityland Mall could benefit from its location close to new, developing neighborhoods.

“It could be set to do well as there have been a large number of residential communities recently delivered within a 10-kilometer radius,” says Anthony Taylor, head of real estate at the Emirates NBD banking group. “The key factor for this mall location being successful would be ease of access both in from, and back out to, these communities.”

In a challenging, competitive environment, the next generation of Dubai malls is having to think creatively to survive and thrive.