Gardens Shopping Mall is set to meet new deadline

world’s biggest themed shopping mall is now set to open next year after suffering a number of major delays

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By  Colin Foreman Published  October 16, 2004

Gardens Shopping Mall is set to meet new deadline|~|43 Project Update body2.jpg|~||~|Sitting alongside Sheikh Zayed Road in front of the Gardens residential development beside Interchange 6 is one of the most visible construction sites in Dubai, the Gardens Shopping Mall. According to the developers, the mall will offer “21st Century shopping in the 14th Century World” in what will be the world’s largest themed mall covering an area of 310 000 m2. The parking lot will accommodate over 6500 cars, taking the total site space up to 540 000 m2. The themed features will capture the adventure and excitement of the life of Ibn Battuta, a famous Arabian traveller and scholar. The idea is to create a consumer environment that people want to revisit. Shoppers can enjoy the historical perspective of the six themed courts, based on Battuta’s travels through Andalusia, North Africa, Egypt, Persia, India and China. The six courts will offer distinct retail experiences. For example, the China Court will prominently feature a sinking ship at the busy port of Guangzhou. Other facilities will include a Geant hypermarket, restaurant area, and a fast food court. The mall will also contain the Middle East’s largest cinema entertainment centre, ‘Grand Gardens Megaplex’. The facility will have 21 screens including an IMAX theatre, all built to international standards. The Megaplex will seat over 3000 people, in addition to over 350 at the IMAX. Construction of the mall is now set for completion in February 2005. However, the project had effectively stalled earlier this year as the project team struggled to get the project moving along. A major part of the problem was the fact that the scope of the project changed significantly during construction. The mall was originally conceived as a factory outlet mall and was awarded to a single main contractor, Obaidullah, who began work onsite in November 2001. Later on the client, Nakheel, had second thoughts and opted to build a more upmarket shopping mall to capitalise on the large number of people moving into the major residential developments in the surrounding area. By the end of 2004, the population within a 5 minute drive from the Gardens Shopping Mall is expected to reach in the order of about 150 000 and then in the region of 275 000 by 2008. More significantly, by 2008, over 880 000 people will be living within a 15-minutes drive from the mall. Additionally, some 600 000 tourists a year will be staying in hotels within a 15 minute radius and will visit the Mall. This major design change increased the size of the mall and the quality of the finishing. The original factory outlet mall did include some themed elements, but the new design was completely themed, which meant much more work for the contractor to deal with. Parts of the original design had already been built and one area of the mall, including the sub structures, had to be demolished. These problems persisted and at the end of April this year Turner Construction was brought in to manage the project. A new completion date of February 2005 was also set. That left just 10 months to complete the project and as only 18% had been completed at that point, time became the major challenge. Turner initially conducted a two-week study and examined the various issues that the project was struggling to overcome. The study showed that the previous managers had delegated much of the design and field supervision work to consultants. This approach changed when Turner took over the management of the project. “We adopted a far more hands on approach, which meant we could be much more involved in the decision making process and direct the project the way we wanted to,” says John Milton, project director, Turner Construction International. The balance of the work was also repackaged to ease the burden placed on the contractor. Obaidullah had a general contract to do all the works. Working with Nakheel, Turner stripped the MEP and theming packages out of the main contract and re-awarded them leaving the contractor with just the structural work. “We wanted to make sure that the contractor completed the structures on time rather worrying about the rest of the work,” says Sanjay Patel, project manager, Turner Construction International. “We would have recommended that route anyway because you are at the mercy of the main contractor otherwise,” he adds. By September Obaidullah had completed the structures and theming work had begun. The theming was split into six packages, one for each zone in the development. There are five interior packages: Andalusia, North Africa, Egypt, Persia, India and China and one separate package for the exterior. These six packages are split between, AAB out of France together with local partner Al Ahmadiah, JC MacLean out of Dubai, and Fujian Construction Eng. Who are doing the theming for the Chinese court. All the other major contractors are also on board, including ETA who was awarded the MEP works. The decision to repackage the balance of the works also reflects the size of the project. “On a job of this size [awarding a general contract] its not what we would recommend. We prefer to manage the packages so that the client doesn’t lose control of the job,” says Milton. The tight schedule was another factor. “The schedule is very tight so we wanted to be involved on an hourly basis so that we know how the contractors are progressing,” adds Milton. Packaging can also lead to better pricing for the client because it effectively cuts out the middleman. “By dealing directly with specialist contractors instead of giving all the work to a general contractor who still passes it onto specialist contractors you avoid the mark up that the general contractor factors into his pricing,” says Patel. Although these benefits are quite clear, many do still question the benefits that packaging can bring because developers often don’t want to be exposed to risk, and prefer to pass that risk on to a general contractor. “Packaging still sells on the risk, each contractor takes on part of the risk instead of a general contractor taking on all of the risk,” says Milton. This method of managing risk creates a massive challenge when it comes to co-ordination, so clients must make sure that the project managers they employ are capable of performing the task. The new approach appears to have worked as the mall is now about 40% complete. “It really depends on how you measure it, but we are where we want to be. The structure is complete and all the major contracts have been awarded. But if you measure progress by the value of work in place then we still have a lot of work to do because there is a lot of money in the theming works and the MEP equipment,” says Milton.||**||

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