Abu Dhabi’s Sowwah Square on the way to emerge as business, shopping hub

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A view of Sowwah Square on the Abu Dhabi beachfront. Photo - Imageshack

A New York property developer and an Abu Dhabi government fund are joining hands to develop a new shopping complex, five-star hotels and fine dining on Abu Dhabi’s Al Maryah Island.

The development is taking place in Sowwah Square, a newly constructed business district which will also be home to the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange. The project is a joint consortium of Gulf Related, a partnership between Related Cos. and a UAE private-equity firm, and Mubadala Real Estate & Hospitality which also seek to develop the Galleria, a shopping complex of luxury brands.

The Abu Dhabi Municipality decided to rename Sowwah Island as Al Maryah Island earlier this year.

Abu Dhabi is diversifying its oil-rich economy through financial services and tourism. Sources suggest the Sowwah development would cost more than $200 million.

The Abu Dhabi site will feature more than 350,000 square feet of retail, food and beverage, and is expected to open in August 2013.

The mall is about 95% leased, with prestige brands like Louis Vuitton, Cartier, and Dolce & Gabbana taking space. Related says there are 100 other retailers queuing to get a spot in the mall.

Also in the pipeline are a string of mega malls and entertainment complexes including Paragon Bay Mall which features a 500-room hotel, 120 shops, and a beachfront promenade. Yas Mall will connect to a Ferrari theme park and be the emirate’s largest shopping complex. Work is underway at the Al Wahda mall which is doubling its size.

Kenneth Himmel, a Related executive and co-managing partner for Gulf Related, says his project’s scale and smorgasbord of luxury tenants will distinguish the Galleria. Several designers, including Marc Jacobs, Paul Smith and Tory Burch, will have their first Abu Dhabi retail locations there.

“This is going to be a gem of a destination for people who live and work in Abu Dhabi, and it will also attract visitors,” he said while adding that the venture is also exploring expansion plans for the retail area.

Related, represented by Stephen Ross’s real-estate company, is executing its first overseas development project in Abu Dhabi which has a population of 900,000 and controls much of the UAE’s wealth.

Sowwah also will include four office towers that Related says are about two-thirds leased. The shopping complex will include a dozen restaurants and two hotels—the Four Seasons and Rosewood—that also will offer luxury residences and are expected to open by 2015.

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