Abu Dhabi eagerly awaits the opening of its much-anticipated, super-regional, destination malls on Yas Island, Saadiyat Island, Reem Island and Al Maryah Island. But in the interim, it is the smaller lifestyle destinations springing up in the city that are presently attracting the attention of residents and visitors. Designed to cater to shoppers in their catchment areas who value the retail experience in less crowded spaces, these niche centres offer globally-renowned brands and a stylish shopping ambience minus the hustle and bustle of large shopping malls.
Market positioning is the key to differentiate these new lifestyle destinations. They do not offer all things to all people; rather, they focus on delivering a select combination of retail experiences – mid-tier to luxury shopping, fine and casual dining, and leisure.
A mix of luxury shopping and fine dining
Not quite in the super-regional category, the 550,000sqft The Galleria, which opened its doors at Sowwah Square in Abu Dhabi recently – and will be fully operational this month – nevertheless promises to become the capital’s next hotspot, with the highest concentration of exclusive luxury brands in one location and an enviable range of fine-dining options.
“It’s not intended to compete with full-scale malls, our aim being to create a popular destination for shopping and dining throughout the day for our catchment area, which extends beyond Al Maryah Island to neighbourhoods within a 15-to-20 minute drive of Abu Dhabi,” says Kevin Ryan, managing director–development, Gulf Related, the UAE-based real estate development company that has nurtured the property as a joint venture with Mubadala Real Estate and Infrastructure (MREI), a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Government-owned Mubadala Development Company.
Of the 130 brands The Galleria houses across 355,000 sqft of gross leasable area (GLA) on two levels, 50 are making their debut in the capital, including Alexander McQueen, Aspinal of London, Almaz by Momo, Berluti, Boucheron, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Celine, Diane von Furstenberg, Emporio Armani Caffe, Jimmy Choo, Marc Jacobs, Moschino, Mulberry, Magnolia Bakery, Paul Smith, Pucci, Pomellato, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch, Thomas Pink and Zuma.
The Galleria is located at the centre of Al Maryah Island (formerly Sowwah Island), a 114-hectare mixed-use residential, retail, leisure, hotel and commercial development designated to be Abu Dhabi’s central business district in the near future. It forms part of Sowwah Square, which will provide 4.8 million sqft of office, hotel and retail space that includes four commercial towers, along with the headquarters of the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange Building and 5-star hotels Rosewood Abu Dhabi and Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi. Sowwah Square is the first phase of the island’s three-phase development plan.
“The Galleria is integrated into the two luxury hotels and four office towers by a network of temperature-controlled corridors. So guests at The Rosewood and Four Seasons can access the shopping precinct from the hotel lobbies. Between them, the Rosewood and The Galleria have 30 food and beverage (F&B) outlets, 15 of them located along the waterfront,” adds Ryan.
The developers have paid close attention to the precinct’s visual appeal, particularly its architecture, to create a signature public space and waterfront location that is expected to increase visitor dwell time. Its heart is a sculptured glass and steel atrium called The Great Room, featuring a giant floor-to-ceiling window for natural lighting. The symmetrical north and south areas have two café terraces and outdoor seating that offers waterfront views.
“The Galleria’s sophisticated and innovative architecture enhances the retail experience. Its inspired design captures the iconic destination’s exclusive essence, with the waterfront environment being a crowd puller in the cooler winter months,” says Ryan.
Another point of differentiation is the customer service desk, which is modelled on a hotel’s concierge desk and follows the high standards set by The Galleria’s parent firm Related Companies.
“It isn’t an information desk. Rather, it’s a hospitality desk where the staff, wearing high-end clothing, speaks multiple languages and assists customers with shopping, transportation and services. The best analogy would be a hotel’s concierge’s desk,” says Ryan.