Abu Dhabi developer plans $1bn mega mall at Al Maryah Island.

Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi’s blossoming new central business district, continues to grow by leaps and bounds and Gulf Related is making a big contribution with a new $272 million project.

The company, a partnership between New York-based Related Cos. and Abu Dhabi’s Gulf Capital, just announced plans for the development of Sowwah Central, a 2.3 million-square-foot super-regional shopping center complemented by a premier hotel and residences.

“Abu Dhabi is underserved by retail and losing a significant transfer in customer spending to Dubai, where the landscape of shopping centers in much younger, larger, and of higher quality,” Kenneth A. Himmel, co-managing partner of Gulf Related and President and CEO of Related Urban, Related Cos.’ mixed-use development division,  told Commercial Property Executive. “Market research and advanced discussions with major international and regional retail groups have indicated strong local demand for additional Gulf Related’s Sowwah Central Abu Dhabiretail space.” Gulf Related saw the opportunity and has wasted precious little time capitalizing on it.

The regional real estate development company purchased the 12-acre site that will become home to Sowwah Central from Mubadala Real Estate & Infrastructure in November 2012 for an undisclosed amount that is excluded from the development cost. Elkus Manfredi Architects was brought aboard to design the mixed-use retail project and now, the details have been revealed. Sowwah Central will add 420,000 square feet of shopping options in the form of two four-story department stores with an international presence, as well as additional world-class shops and entertainment venues. And that’s just the retail segment.

Sowwah Central will also feature a 400,000-square-foot tower encompassing an über-upscale hotel and residential apartments, and another 400,000-square-foot building housing more luxury residences. This is not Gulf Related’s first time at the rodeo. The company also developed the neighboring Sowwah Square, which contains the new 550,000-square-foot The Galleria, a fully leased, luxury shopping and dining destination. Sowwah Square also features four premier commercial buildings; the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange; separate office towers for the National Bank of Abu Dhabi and Al Hilal Bank; two luxury hotels and Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.

Upon completion, Sowwah Central will bring the total offerings to 15.8 million square feet. All told, the complex will include 500 retail, leisure, dining and entertainment options. “The retail we are creating here, The Galleria and Sowwah Central, will be the largest in Abu Dhabi and represents the next generation in shopping center experiences,” said Himmel. But is it too much? Retail is sprouting up at a rapid pace on Al Maryah Island, but as Gulf Related moves forward with Sowwah Central, the company has no fears of over-development. “The Galleria retail leasing success, and oversubscription, combined with advanced discussions with the U.A.E.’s major retail groups–including Al Tayer, Chalhoub, Richemont–confirm a need for Sowwah Central,”Himmel added. “Al Maryah Island has been carefully master-planned and the shopping, dining and residential and hotel uses we are creating will serve the demand of the employees of the various uses on the island, from the office workers to the Cleveland Clinic, as well as local Abu Dhabi residents and tourists alike.” Indeed, tourism is on the rise in Abu Dhabi. The capital city of the U.A.E. is the fourth-fasted growing destination city in the world in terms of visitor numbers , per the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index. Gulf Related’s Sowwah Central is on track to reach completion in spring 2017.