The eagerly awaited Deerfields Town Square Mall is just eight months from opening in Abu Dhabi. General manager Banu Tas talks to Gay Sutton about fulfilling the needs of the community.
In December this year, the new Deerfields Town Square Mall will be opening its doors to the public in the Al Bahiya area of Abu Dhabi, providing a much needed blend of shopping outlets, entertainment venues, restaurants and family activities for the rapidly growing communities living on the mainland close to the Emirate’s island capital.
Over the past 15 years, intensive development in Abu Dhabi and the surrounding towns has resulted in a growing suburban spread. Today, there are some 90,000 people living in what used to be the villages of Al Bahiya, Al Rahba, Shahama, Skalifa, Hydra Village, Al Reef and Raha. And all of them lie within a 10-minute drive of the new Deerfields Town Square Mall. “Our vision,” explains general manager Banu Tas, “is to deliver a community mall to what has become one of the fastest growing districts in Abu Dhabi.”
The attraction of the Mall is expected to be far wider than that too. As Deerfields rises on the skyline, its outline is becoming easily visible from the E11 highway. This massive four-lane arterial route stretches from one end of the UAE to the other, paralleling the coast and linking the Gulf-facing Emirates and their communities. Some 500,000 cars pass Deerfields on the E11 each week, and with an easy access route to the Mall, many are likely to become either casual or regular visitors.
This ambitious 700 million dirham projectwill offer a combination of retail, entertainment, dining and family activities and is projected to attract some 10 million visitors through its doors each year. The eye-catching landmark building extends over four levels, including an extensive parking facility for over 3,000 vehicles. Modelled in an elongated H shape, each end of the building houses the key anchor outlets for both retail and entertainment. The French hypermarket chain Carrefour is scheduled to open an extensive supermarket at one end of the first floor while the Landmark Group’s popular apparel stores Centrepoint and Max will be located at the other end. Linking these two will be a range of smaller retail outlets and kiosks.
The top floor is an imaginative combination of entertainment and shopping facilities. There will be a food court offering a wide variety of international and regional cuisines as well as family eating outlets. The family theme is very strong on this floor. “In Abu Dhabi today, there is not much entertainment offered to kids and families, so we will be filling a big gap in the market,” Tas says. At one end of the top floor, the cinema chain Grand Cinemas is opening a large multi-screen facility with one VIP screen and nine regular screens, while the other end is set to house the Mall’s own innovation, a Family Entertainment Centre (FEC).
Occupying some 70,000 square feet, the FEC will provide a variety of children’s entertainments including UV golf, a games arcade, party room and a climbing wall. But perhaps the most exciting and innovative addition is the company’s home-grown family entertainment concept, which embodies the idea of ‘edu-tainment’: combining continuous education and learning with the fun element of entertainment for families. “With ‘at the heart of the community’ in mind, we have designed the Family Entertainment Centre to give back to the community by not only providing quality time for kids of all ages and their families, but to also make the experience worthwhile by educating them in a fun and engaging manner to add value to the community,” explains Tas. “The concept is unique to our community and allows kids to experience and get educated about ‘life’ while enjoying the fun part of being a kid.”
Another interesting and attractive feature oftheDeerfields Town Square Mall is the garden level on the ground floor. This has both an indoor and outdoor component. The outdoor element comprises around 60,000 square feet of landscaped gardens, planted with trees and decorated with fountains and water features. A fully equipped kids’ playground is located within the gardens. There will be entertainments for all ages, including an exciting rope course.
“Around the landscaped area we will have a range of al fresco dining restaurants as well as a stand-alone restaurant in the centre of the garden,” Tas continues. All the restaurants surrounding the gardens will be accessible from indoors, but each of them comes with an outdoor terrace overlooking the gardens and a play area, creating an enjoyable family experience where parents can relax over a leisurely meal, watching their children enjoy themselves safely. “Once again, we’re delighted to offer another first for our community with al fresco dining, which will allow visitors to enjoy dining in an outdoor setting.”
This thriving community will no doubt be awaiting the opening of the Deerfields Town Square Mall in December. Therehas been a great deal of commercial interest in the development too, and over 50 per cent of the retail space has already been leased out while the remaining retail space is currently under negotiation. “Our target is to open with at least 80 per cent occupancy, and we’re on track to achieve that,” Tas says.
With just eight months to go, the construction work will soon be entering its most complex phase. “We have an aggressive timeline for completion of this project and have engaged best-in-class partners, which give us increased confidence as we fast-track the construction,” Tas explains. “We expect to top out at the end of May and open the Mall in December this year, so the construction and electrical work are being done in parallel.”
Even before the building is completely topped out, the first of the big anchor retailers is scheduled to send contractors into the building to start fitting out the store. “We will be handing over the first of the big units to Carrefour in April, to Landmark in June, and the others will follow on in July and August,” Tas says. With over 200 retail units to be completed by December in addition to the anchor tenants and the Family Entertainment Centre, the task of coordinating and negotiating the delivery and work schedules of so many contractors, and ensuring all parties work effectively and efficiently together in the same space, is one Tas and her team are accustomed to.
When Deerfields Town Square Mall opens in December this year it will provide a greatly needed retail and community centre for the Bahia, Shahama and surrounding suburbs of Abu Dhabi as well as the numerous travellers on the Dubai to Abu Dhabi highway. But most of all, Deerfields Town Square Mall is a key enabler in the community coming to life, truly becoming ‘the mall at the heart of the community’.