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Reem Mall looks to appoint main contractor by March

The main contract to build the US$1 billion Reem Mall project is likely to be awarded by the end of next March, giving National Real Estate Company, a Kuwaiti developer, two-and-a-half years to build the 2 million square feet retail hub.

Shane Eldstrom, Reem Mall’s chief operating officer, said it had already sought bids from contractors.

“We expect to get the tenders back in mid-December, so we’re probably looking at February to March next year,” he said at the launch of Reem Mall in Dubai on Wednesday evening. The mall is being developed alongside United Projects for Aviation Services Company, which has pledged up to $225 million in equity funding.

Samuel Sidiqi, Reem Mall’s chief executive, said that most of the financing was either “in place or in sight”, with ongoing negotiations over debt funding.

“It’s not finalised. We’re in the process,” he said yesterday.

Mr Eldstrom said he was “very confident” that the work could be completed within its 30-month programme, despite the complex nature of the mall. Half of the 6,800 parking spaces will be in two basement levels, and the other half will be above two main shopping levels.

“We’re making significant investment in transport infrastructure, including a highway flyover linking directly to Abu Dhabi’s main island,” said Mr Eldstrom.

He said the project team had spent two years creating detailed designs aimed at improving the user experience. Car parking spaces will never be more than 150 metres from a store entrance, for instance, and shoppers will never be more than 91 metres away from a bathroom.

“There are some good malls in Abu Dhabi. There may even be some great malls. Reem Mall will go a step further. We are now developing the outstanding retail destination in Abu Dhabi,” said Mr Eldstrom.

The mall will house a hypermarket and several anchor stores. Mr Eldstrom said discussions with potential tenants “are either well advanced or concluded”.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a mall construction boom in Abu Dhabi, with the addition of the 645,000 square feet World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi mall and the 2.5 million sq ft Yas Mall last year. Gulf Related is due to open its 2.3 million sq ft Al Maryah Central project in March 2018 – six months ahead of Reem Mall’s completion.

Mr Eldstrom argued that Abu Dhabi “is a market that’s really ripe” for more retail projects. “We’ve done all of the research anticipating that all of these projects are successful, and we remain very successful,” he said.

Matthew Green, CBRE’s head of research and consultancy for the UAE, said that demand for mall space remained high and that no sizeable amount of stock was likely to come on to the market until 2018.

But he said “there will be some competition” between Al Maryah Central and Reem Mall because of their proximity.

“I think there is going to be a winner and a loser in that battle potentially, or they are going to have to look at a different selection of brands.”

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