Abu Dhabi is showcasing a fantastic new project in its prestigious financial district. The upcoming Al Maryah Central is a $1.5bn leisure and entertainment development. It will feature a regional shopping centre with two US-based department stores, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s.
Al Maryah Central will offer a mixture of retail and merchandise units, an extensive family entertainment complex with a large cinema, a comprehensive health club, and a variety of food and beverage outlets.
In addition to a food hall, Al Maryah Central will contain over 100 options for dining; the choices include al fresco cafés, bistros and fine dining restaurants. Situated amongst an attractive outdoor space, the restaurants will overlook a striking waterfront promenade.
The development will also feature two 37,161m2 towers; one with a five-star hotel and serviced apartments, and the other with luxury residences.
Due to be completed in 2018, Al Maryah Central will connect to more than 114 business and lifestyle destinations on Al Maryah Island. The development will include access to Abu Dhabi Global Market Square, The Galleria on the island, four ‘Grade A’ commercial towers, Rosewood Abu Dhabi, The Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi, new headquarter office towers for both the National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Al Hilal Bank, Maryah Plaza’s luxury residential towers, and the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
The entire project comprises nine storeys of development: four levels below Al Maryah Island’s elevated road system and five above. Two large bridge spans will link to the existing car park structures for Abu Dhabi Global Market Square and The Galleria developments. Accessible air-conditioned passageways will connect the entire district, which will be complemented by over 7,000 parking spaces and 13 bridges.
The project is being developed by Gulf Related. Gulf Related is a collaborative partnership between Gulf Capital, a Middle East-based alternative asset management firm, and Related Companies, which is one of the largest private real estate development and investment firms in the United States.
First works on the project commenced on November 2014 with the excavation of the site. Then, the foundation works began in January 2015.
Full construction began on the project site in August 2015, with Brookfield Multiplex being named as the main contractor. Under the $425m contract, Brookfield will build the mall, in addition to 400 other retail stores, 100 restaurants and cafés, and the 20-screen cinema complex.
Commendable progress is being made on site. Kevin Ryan, Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director of Gulf Related, said:
“We are completely focused on the development and the commercial aspect of the project. In terms of construction activity, we are doing quite well, and have advanced a lot. For the piling works, we have appointed UAE-based NSCC.”
All shoring was executed by Bauer Equipment while the piling was produced by NSCC. Mr Ryan said:
“In terms of the building activity, we are working with around 18 to 20 subcontractors to make the work progress faster. So, while we conducted the piling works, we concluded our tender process and selected Brookfield Multiplex (BM) as our main contractor.”
The Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) has already awarded a 1 Pearl Estidama rating to the structure, for strictly adhering to sustainability standards. According to Mr Ryan, the project has “adopted all the international practices for achieving…enhanced targets for energy efficiency,”. In addition, the developer boasts an impeccable health and safety (HSE) record, which Ryan says amounted to five million-man hours. He told the press:
“We had to adopt special safety and security measures, since we are located in a highly secure area [the financial district]. We will be creating some access to the car parks, drop-offs, so that we can prevent any potential incidents or threats from bombs or [other] devices.”
“We have developed an incentivised programme for the entire staff and the management. Each of them gets an award at the end of the month for following the correct guidelines.”
Taking this into consideration, Al Maryah Central will be “very much be on par with any high-end developments in London or New York.” Gulf Related have been working collaboratively with the UPC to reposition certain parts of the building, and include robust enhancements to the main atrium.
Multiple design and consultancy firms have been involved with the project, including Elkus Manfredi Architects, with Gensler & AECOM as architects of record. WSP and Thornton Tomasetti are the local engineering partners and food and beverage work has been awarded to the Rockwell Group.
Most of the raw materials used in the project have been sourced locally, according to the developer. “We have been buying local materials whenever possible. Stone was brought in from Oman, and steel was used from a local company, Emirates Steel. We believe in promoting locally made stuff” Ryan states.
The developer is proposing a project construction schedule of 33 months. Approximately 6,000 workers are currently present at the construction site, and a further 2,000 should be added during the fit-out stage. The Managing Director of Gulf Limited says that “a lot is happening at one time; we are around 23% complete as a whole.” He spoke at a press release, assuring that Gulf Limited are leaving “no stone unturned” in meeting the deadline. He said:
“We are also pressing ahead with the high-rise residential tower, and want to finish it with the mall. We have already signed a deal for the hotel and are proceeding with the planning. The whole idea is to finish everything within the schedule.” Mr Ryan continued:
“To keep things on track, we obtained the approvals from the authorities really early. We are pretty well-organised in terms of logistics, supply chain management. And not to forget, we’ve got a great partner in Brookfield Multiplex.”
A project of this size has risks and challenges to overcome. Determined to tackle the hurdles, the Managing Director said:
“There are some inevitable challenges that we are bound to face. Someone will ask you to modify something, and the entire thing would need to be re-done. We have tried to incorporate every single detail to the best of our abilities.”
“So, if you have any developer that says their project work is going on without any challenges, then they are not telling you the whole truth. We have faced multiple difficulties, and I believe there will be further ups and downs in the schedule. The bigger challenge will be when the 400 tenants will be coming in. But we are ready for that.”
“Both the department stores will be handed over in January 2017. Escalators have already been installed for Bloomingdale’s, while Macy’s will take another two to three months. The whole idea is to stay on schedule.”
The construction has completely secured senior debt financing for the project. Gulf Related entered into a $626m (AED2.3bn) agreement with Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank (ADCB). The financing deal is the largest of its kind in the region for Gulf Related. Financing by ADCB will fund a portion of the development cost of the mixed-use retail development: an important milestone in the project.
Last year, the developers told the press:
“We are very pleased to have secured the financial backing of ADCB for Al Maryah Central, one of the most anticipated developments in the region. This financing continues a long-standing partnership with ADCB and we are proud to be collaborating with them on this exciting project. Securing the full financing marks another key milestone in the construction of the project and further underscores our ability to deliver this high-quality development on schedule.”
With a large workforce and secure funding in place, designs are literally being set in stone. The Managing Director said that “the marble and tiles will be finished in another six to eight months.”
“There is a lot of pre-planning going on, we have appointed a team of 30 to 40 people, who co-ordinate with the tenants in order to get everything design-approved.”
He concludes: “We have previously worked in Abu Dhabi — we know the challenges and the pitfalls with regards to such a huge project — and we are up for it. We have got a good team and we look forward to meeting our deadline.”
Excitingly, Abu Dhabi will be enjoying this great and capable mall within the next year.