Dubai Out goes the food court and in its stead comes a sprawling piazza with a sprinkling of chic coffee shops and swanky restaurants. The supermarket is set to one side and near an exit rather than the central location that the format commands in just about every mall in the region.
The folks at the Lagoona, Qatar's strictly upscale mall located in the West Bay neighbourhood, are sure thinking different. "As a niche shopping centre, we can't be similar to a 300-store shopping centre that demands a huge amount of traffic," Eamon Kelly, general manager. "We are not about being a cookie-cutter shopping centre."
The location has a lot to do with the settings that the mall is offering. Lagoona is a short distance from The Pearl-Qatar, which is coming on nicely as one of Doha's premier residential locations (and with the rentals to match it).
"It's a development with the ability to take in 40,000 people and I believe there are already 15,000 living there," Kelly said. "The other thing going for the Lagoona is the development of Lusail City to the north of us here. That's a 38-square kilometre development that will have 50,000 dwellings plus offices.
"They anticipate about 200,000 people living and working there in time."
Creating an unhurried feel
If that's in the slightly distant future, the fact that Lagoona is in the West Bay neighbourhood has lots going for it already. "You have all the expensive Qatari homes and its residents and they want to shop in a luxurious area with an unhurried feel about it," Kelly said. "We are aiming to be a destination for a select group of people," Kelly added.
Another captive shopper base comes from the Zig-Zag Towers, residential high-rises that adjoin the mall, which had a soft opening last August. Some of the F&B operators have already moved in and so has Fifty One East, the high-end department store of Qatari origin.
But, can a mall get by solely catering to a well-heeled clientele? Kelly believes it can through a combination of its location, the size of the mall itself (128,000 square metres), and the presence of quite a few international brands which are making their regional debut.
"We have been very selective; we are not looking for the run-of-the-mill stores that you see in every single shopping centre," Kelly said. "To be quite honest, we aren't a large shopping centre and we couldn't do that. We have to be very selective in who we lease to.
"There will be no cinema — while they are great traffic builders, it would work only if you have a great deal of parking. If parking is limited — and we have 2,000 spaces — cinema would take up a lot of that space and prohibit people from shopping."
The formal opening dates have not been announced, though the indications are that it would most likely be in September or October this year. Even then, shopper traffic is building up on a regular basis through word of mouth, according to the general manager.
"This fall, once the Piazza is finished, we will launch ourselves and the luxury component on the upper level will be finished in the spring of 2013."
That's good going for a company, Darwish Malls, in its first exposure to this sector.
"But, the team we have here has had experience in the industry," Kelly said. "We are competitive on the lease rates. You have to have a certain standard on the rental lease and then a percentage depending on the sales.
A key future attraction of the Lagoona will be a 20,000 square metre European-style Piazza with up to 16 fine dining avenues, outdoor patios, sculptural canopies and wood pergolas.n Lagoona features a two-level, 51,000 square metre structure with more than 160 stores, 15 F&B outlets and 2,000 parking lots. It is attached to Qatar's first zigzag-shaped towers, of 34 floors each.
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