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Known for creating unique outdoor lifestyle retail destinations, Meraas has been successfully thinking out of the box to create engaging formats that reflect all that is new and interesting in Dubai. Concepts like City Walk, The Beach opposite JBR and Boxpark offer a fresh take to resident and tourist audiences looking for an all-inclusive venue to socialise with family and friends in the city. In an interview with PW, Saleh Mohamed Al Geziry, Vice President of Retail Management and Transactions at Meraas, talks about these exciting developments and what makes them click.
What has been the inspiration behind Boxpark? Pop-up retail concepts similar to the Boxpark in Dubai are there in London and even Amsterdam. What has been the main idea behind setting up such a retail experience here?
Boxpark was conceptualised to offer Dubai residents and tourists a lifestyle destination where people could meet up and be themselves in an unpretentious atmosphere. The development has a vibrant and edgy design created with recycled containers, which is yet to be seen elsewhere in the UAE. Embracing a modern, progressive lifestyle, Boxpark caters to the retail and social needs of the community with its funky, industrial vibe.
Does a concept like this nurture small brands? We have seen an interesting mix of brands pop up here — such as Dri Dri, Polliwalks, Urbanist, Typo, which are not seen in the bigger malls. Why do you think they have chosen to be here?
Boxpark is home to more than 25 new concepts in Dubai, including several independent entrepreneurial outlets that have launched at the asset. The effort has brought together a unique selection of retail, cafés, restaurants and leisure concepts that appeal to diverse audiences. Every retail outlet at Boxpark has been curated to serve a larger purpose than just filling up space.
How does Boxpark blend with the surrounding community, especially since it concerns communities that are so high-end and sophisticated?
Boxpark’s urban and alternative design provides a contrast in architecture to Dubai’s high-end neighbourhoods, blending a unique modern setting and experience, breathing new life into the city. The outdoor concept provides an all-round experience featuring 44 retail, restaurant, cafe, and entertainment brands. The development combines the best of local and international outlets that are equally appealing to the national and expatriate community in the UAE.
The traffic along Al Wasl and the footfall has obviously gone up after Boxpark has become operational. Would you say this has become the new social hub of Dubai?
Boxpark has definitely attracted a plethora of visitors since its initial launch as it appeals to a wide audience ranging from youth to families, including residents and tourists. The venue has a variety of funky retail outlets and eateries and is set to host several new attractions in the coming months, including a unique 360 degree theatre concept — The Dome Box.
Not very far from Boxpark is City Walk, and these two malls cater to the prime areas of Jumeirah, Al Safa, Al Wasl and even Downtown. How are they different from each other and are they catering to a different section of people?
Both concepts have unique personalities and cater to different audiences. Boxpark is an offbeat, edgy high street retail strip, which boasts an alternative architectural design with a funky, industrial vibe catering to a young spirited audience. City Walk has a chic outdoor ambience with a striking fountain as its centerpiece in a family-friendly environment, which allows visitors to meet and mingle for a memorable experience.
Also with City Walk, Boxpark and The Beach we have seen open-air districts or shopping areas becoming popular turning the conventional wisdom of the need for shelter from the elements on its head. These assets have taken the outdoor route, creating beautiful and attractive spaces. How is business during summer in these places?
Due to the UAE’s high temperatures during the summer, trading time across the city slows down, which is no different for these three assets. We work closely with Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishments and other local organisations to participate in all promotional activities and create platforms to keep our visitors entertained during the warmer months.
Initiatives such as Dubai Summer Surprises help us highlight tenants and support trading. All three assets offer open spaces with delectable cafés and F&B outlets that are ideal for hosting events and entertainment, creating a refreshing ambience that remains in style any day or time of the year.
Would you call City Walk more a leisure destination, for dining out, rather than shopping?
City Walk is a dynamic outdoor concept — set against the backdrop of Dubai’s sprawling skyline. Although there are a larger number of gourmet dining outlets and cafés at City Walk, the venue also offers a variety of retail offerings from high-end beauty, jewelry, fashion concepts and homeware.
Source: Esha Nag, Editor, Property Weekly