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Benoy extols virtues of shopping mall 'experience'

Architects promote mixed-use retail developments for GCC

The Beach.
The Beach.

Award-winning architects Benoy believe the retail experience in the GCC is about much more than shopping.

And Paul Priest, director – head of MENA Studio – points to the recently completed Beach project opposite Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence as a perfect example.

The Beach is a low-rise entertainment, leisure and retail development, along a 1km stretch between the Hilton and Sheraton hotels on the shoreline.

The development is in the form of four different zones, from family orientated through dining and retail to high-end luxury brands.

A 10-screen cinema and an outdoor viewing area is at one end while the other features top retail outlets.

Priest told CW: “Looking at new retail models, when you’re striving to offer something that’s unique in an environment as competitive as Dubai, then we have to look at new trends, for example the Beach project.

“It’s a fairly traditional model, in the USA, for example, 70% of retail is a strip mall concept and we’ve conceptualized that into the Middle East, something that a lot of people weren’t sure perhaps could work because of the temperature. But we’ve proven that outdoor environments can be successful in the Middle East, providing the right environmental controls are installed.”

He added: “Traditionally the core of the business has been retail and it has to be efficient and has to meet certain criteria. But what we’re finding is that the efficiencies of retail offers are decreasing in order to allow for entertainment and leisure and certainly from my experience in the UAE, I’ve been here for over seven years, is that it’s more about spending time in a place rather than actually shopping, so the more family entertainment and the more we think outside of the box in terms of traditional retail, the more successful it will be. And I think developers appreciate it.”

Benoy, who opened an office in Dubai earlier this year, were also involved in the design of the City Walk development in the Jumeirah area the Emirate.

Projects in Abu Dhabi include The Galleria, Yas Island’s Concept Masterplan and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. The company is also working on projects in Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Nick Lamb, vice chairman Benoy, who has 30 years retail experience, said: “When you’ve got fantastic developments like Dubai Mall, Mall of the Emirates and Mirdif City Centre. You can’t really top those with a mega-mall unless you’ve got a unique feature in it, so The Beach and City Walk can maybe not top it, but offer a point of difference and I think that’s what the region will start concentrating on more. Not going bigger and better and wow, because where does that end?” 

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