Doha to launch world’s first air conditioned shopping strip

Qatar plans to open the world’s first open-air, air conditioned public plaza, it was announced this week.

The 38,000 sq m project at Doha’s Katara Cultural Village is intended to open in 2016, with a Galeries Lafayette department store, dedicated children’s mall and Evian branded spa.

Ground-cooling technology will enable shoppers to wander around the plaza even in the hottest months of the year, the project’s directors told a press conference in Doha.

The Katara Cultural Foundation manages a range of projects and facilities at Katara Village, including museums, restaurants, concerts, an opera house and several arts and culture festivals throughout the year. It is also overseeing the development of a luxury villa development nearby, called Katara Hills.

However, Katara Plaza will be its first commercial retail project. Dr Khalid bin Ibrahim Al-Sulaiti, general manager of Katara Cultural Foundation, told assembled press the intention is to use profits from the scheme to maintain the cultural activities on offer at the village.

The state-backed organisation has partnered with retail distribution company Ali Bin Ali Group to secure tenants for the scheme. Among the deals already inked are with anchor tenant, French department store Galeries Lafayette, which has signed to take more than 13,800 sq m of space dedicated for fashion retail.

The intention is to select exclusive fashion brands over chain retailers, Nabeel Ali Bin Ali, vice-chairman of Ali Bin Ali Group told assembled press at Katata Hall.

Meanwhile, mineral water producer Evian has signed to develop a branded spa at the plaza, and there will also be a large children’s mall designed in the shape of a wrapped present.

Paris-based architect Bruno Moinard has been appointed to design the scheme, and said it will combine classical Roman architecture – columns, arches and the trademark horseshoe plaza shape (pictured) – with traditional Arabic building styles.

Katara Cultural Village has attracted up to one million visitors from across the world each year since it opened in 2010. It is hoped that the planned opening of the commercial plaza will significantly increase these numbers by establishing Doha as an international centre for arts, retail and culture.

However, Al-Sulaiti told Arabian Business the foundation’s underlying aim is to celebrate Qatar’s heritage, and it would seek to ensure the new commercial plaza was accessible and affordable to local residents as well as tourists.

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