With reporting from Peter Kovessy
A miniature city where children would be able to “work” as pilots, doctors or firefighters will be one of the key family attractions at Mall of Qatar when it opens its doors slightly later than planned in early 2016, its operators have announced.
The $824 million (QR3 billion) under-construction mall, situated west of Education City on the Dukhan Highway, has signed a deal with Lebanon-based Kidz Holding to bring children’s center KidzMondo to Doha.
The child-friendly $25 million (QR91 million) project will feature more than 70 scaled-down businesses in an 8,000 sq meter, two-story complex designed to resemble a town, including a central plaza, fire station, clock tower, police station and hospital theater.
Children between the ages of two and 14 years old would be able to act out a variety of everyday jobs as well as some of the roles in space, technology or energy which might exist in the future. Supervised by staff, they can earn a salary in the complex’s dedicated currency, and use it to shop in some of the on-site stores.
Design of the mini-businesses is in the final stages and the play center is already under construction, Mall of Qatar said in a statement announcing the deal.
“We feel that allowing children to immerse themselves in a miniature version of the world around them will spark their imagination in a fun and interactive way,” Mall of Qatar’s Managing Director Shem Krey said.
For several of the massive shopping centers popping up in Qatar, such attractions are being seen as critical, with operators branding their ventures as retail, leisure and entertainment destinations.
The quality of the offerings is also being seen as a way for malls to differentiate themselves in a market that’s expected to have an oversupply of retail space in the coming years.
Kidz Holding already runs similar franchises throughout the region, including the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt. The Doha play center aims to attract 300,000 visitors in its first year, the company said on its website.
The concept of educational and role-play focused children’s entertainment centers is becoming increasingly popular internationally and similar facilities in the region are already established, such as a branch of KidZania in Dubai Mall.
The KidzMondo center fills the void left after Mall of Qatar parted ways with an operator previously named to run the shopping center’s entertainment area.
Last year, the mall unveiled plans to open a Juniverse family entertainment zone, which was to include an Angry Birds theme park and Virtuosity, an e-gaming zone for teenagers and young adults.
Separately, Mall of Qatar’s operators appear to have pushed back their opening date from the previously-announced fall of this year to “early 2016.” When it does launch to the public, it will be around one-third larger than Villaggio Mall and will be – briefly – Qatar’ biggest shopping complex until DFC opens next fall.
Mall of Qatar will have 195,000 sq meters of store space and more than 500 shops. The mall will also feature a 19-screen IMAX cinema, as well as a five-star fashion-themed hotel, the newly launched Curio by Hilton. Neither the mall or hotel will be licensed to serve alcohol.
There will also be a theater in an eight-story central glassed dome, with a resident performance troupe who will put on three or four shows daily on a circular stage. In a style similar to Cirque du Soliel, performers in bright circus-style costumes will combine acrobatics, tricks and traditional theater.
Meanwhile, another mega-mall under construction in Qatar has revealed the first component of its entertainment zone.
Sean Kelly, the project director for Place Vendôme in Lusail, told Doha News this week at CityScape that he is in discussions with the developers behind the sound, light and water show in Singapore’s Marina Bay. The nightly performances use music, lasers and fountains to entertain residents and visitors in the popular tourist area.
Kelly added that other entertainment amenities would likely be added as the mall’s opening date approaches.
Place Vendôme is inspired by the French landmark of the same name and will feature a canal running around the mall and out to the sea. It is expected to have a built-up area of approximately 800,000 sq meters and some 230,000 sq meters of leasable retail space, nearly double the size of Villaggio mall.
It will also feature two luxury hotels and some 150 serviced apartments.
Kelly said the project remains on track to open in the third quarter of 2017.