One of Qatar’s oldest shopping centers is embarking on a massive facelift that will entail paring down the number of shops and adding in anchor tenants, as the opening date for several new malls draws near.
Aamal Co., which owns City Center mall, said in a statement this month that it plans to spend QR300 million over the next three years to maintain the development’s “leading market position.”
Mall manager Joerg Harengerd told Doha News one of the biggest changes will be at the rear of the shopping center, which he conceded can feel a bit like a “labyrinth” at times for shoppers.
According to Harengerd, the renovation project includes plans to make the mall’s layout more logical for shoppers, so that visitors can walk down corridors with shops on either side without running into dead ends.
He also said that new entertainment options were being considered to replace the mall’s existing leisure attractions, adding that removing the ice rink is a possibility.
Additionally, connections to the soon-to-be opened Shangri-La, Rotana and Merweb hotels on the mall’s east side will be constructed, similar to the entrance to the Marriott Marquis on the west end of the shopping center, Harengerd said.
City Center also plans to reduce the number of stores from approximately 370 to between 330 and 350 to allow new large anchor tenants to move in, he added.
The manager declined to discuss specific tenants that the mall is targeting, apart from saying that he’d like to see more fashion retailers.
The goal, he said, is to take advantage of City Center’s central location and allow customers to complete all their shopping under one roof.
Meanwhile, Harengerd said efforts are underway to make the shopping experience more “comfortable” by for example adding new entrances to the parking garage, as well as new decorations to improve the mall’s appearance.
“We want customers to say, ‘Wow,’” he said.
While many new shopping centers are positioned to chase the upper-end of the retail market, Harengerd said City Center will continue to cater to Qatar’s middle class.
The latest renovations come roughly a year after City Center added 35 new stores on its lower level, including Bread & Bagels, Costa Coffee as well as Pets & More, among others.
City Center is currently among the largest shopping malls in the country, but is expected to lose that title next year.
Both the Mall of Qatar in Al Rayyan past Education City, as well as Doha Festival City, which includes the Ikea off Al Shamal Road, will dwarf City Center and Villaggio mall in size when they are completed.
Doha Festival City recently said it’s sticking to plans to open in September 2016 and has installed countdown clocks in its offices to remind employees and contractors of the Sept. 29 deadline.
Mall of Qatar also recently said that it will open by September 2016.
Analysts have previously said that Qatar will face an oversupply of retail space once these shopping centers, as well as other under-construction properties such as North Gate Mall and Tawar Mall, open in the coming years.
This is expected to woo shoppers who used to frequent older properties, such as City Center.
But Harengerd said the mall’s West Bay location and connection to the Doha Metro will help it compete.
“Of course, everyone will go to Doha Festival City and Mall of Qatar when they open to see how they look,” he said. “But our goal is to keep them as customers.”