A luxury spa, an upmarket French department store and a children’s mall will anchor a new outdoor air-conditioned commercial plaza that is set to open next year at Katara Cultural Village, officials have announced.
“Katara Plaza” will contain the Middle East’s first evian spa, named after the French mineral water firm. It will also be home to Qatar’s first Galeries Lafayette, a Paris-based retailer specializing in clothing, accessories and homeware, Katara managers told media yesterday while discussing details of the new development.
The plaza will be 38,000 square meters, which is equivalent to approximately one-quarter of City Center Mall’s retail area.
Acknowledging that a glut of commercial centers will be opening in Qatar over the next few years, officials said Katara Plaza’s traditional architecture and climate-controlled open-air design would help it compete.
“We expect that Katara Plaza (will) unlock a unique world-class shopping experience offering the Qatari market many first-of-its-kind experiences,” stated Nabeel Ali Bin Ali, vice-chairman and executive vice-president of the Ali Bin Ali Group, which will manage the commercial development.
Outdoor cooling technology was previously exhibited at Katara last summer during screenings of the 2014 World Cup.
Open-air fan zones were set up at the cultural village, where spectators watched football matches broadcast from Brazil outdoors. Despite Qatar’s searing summer heat, many fans said they were actually cold while in the zone.
Katara has seen a flurry of development in recent years.
Plans for a retail area, previously dubbed “The Valley,” have long been in the works for the area adjacent to Al Istiqlal Street, between the two ridges of land separating the busy road and the cultural village.
A separate construction project, “Katara Hills” is underway to build a waterfront community atop the embankments.
According to Katara’s website, the project will be a low-rise mixed-use development consisting of villas, townhouses and apartment flats “targeted to be a venue for high-class VIPs and celebrities, providing a luxurious living lifestyle, together with an authentic and enriching cultural experience.”
There were also plans for a fourth phase, which would be a 178,000-square-meter mixed-use development on the southern edge of the Katara property. No details have been released on the status of that project.
Officials said the revenues from the residential and commercial developments are envisioned to support Katara’s cultural programming, which includes exhibitions, festivals and galleries.
“We are working to (be) an economically profitable cultural institution,” Katara general manager Khalid bin Ibrahim al-Sulaiti said in a statement.
While the architecture and adjacent cultural amenities are likely to give the commercial area a unique appearance, Katara will nevertheless be competing for tenants against several other new shopping centers – many of which are also chasing high-end, luxury retailers.
Cultural institutions such as Katara form a key plank of Qatar’s tourism strategy, which aims to dramatically increase the number of visitors to the country in the coming years.
Al-Sulaiti said yesterday that Katara received 14 million guests last year, twice as many as the 7 million people who visited in 2013, according to the Gulf Times.