Doha Festival City is preparing to award the contract to build the next component of its development on the outskirts of the Qatari capital.

Contractors submitted bids for the InterContinental hotel last year and the tender process is now close to being concluded. “We are in final stages of the tender and award process,” says Kareem Shamma, CEO, Doha Festival City.

The two-year contract involves building a 351-room hotel next to the development’s shopping mall. The structure will have a ground floor, mezzanine level and four other floors, and will include a ballroom and conference facilities.

The hotel will be part the Doha Festival City mall complex, which is due to open on 1 March. The earlier closing date of 1 February was moved to give more time for the final finishes to be completed. “Most of the construction work, 99 per cent is done, finishing and cleaning, so it is the last touches really that need a bit of time,” says Shamma.

The QR1.65bn ($453m) deal to build the mall was awarded to a joint venture of the local Gulf Contracting and the UAE’s Alec in 2014.

The mall will open in two phases. “The mall is made up of two longitudinal corridors in a race track circulation so we are opening all of that in one go,” says Shamma. “There is a second phase to the opening which includes the spur corridors into the luxury areas and also the entertainment portion. We are leaving that for a second phase which will follow on very shortly from the first phase. The main effort is to get the main circulation in the mall open and all the units along that open.”

The mall will be close to full capacity when it opens. “We are over 90 per cent leased now, and there is a certain percentage we keep deliberately vacant so leasing has been a great success on the project,” says Shamma.

The entertainment, which is becoming an increasingly important part of any modern mall, is a combination of indoor and outdoor with four theme parks and a common foyer that gives access. “There are lots of rides that haven’t been seen before in the region,” says Shamma.

An Ace Hardware store is also being build and it due to open in the third quarter of this year. The contract is the local Amana Qatar Contracting Company. An earlier smaller phase, which was opened in 2013, included the construction of Qatar’s first Ikea store. That work was completed by a joint venture of Qatari Arabian Construction Company and Amana Qatar Contracting Company.

Future expansion

For future expansion the developers are keeping their options open. “There is a future expansion area that was on the masterplan since day one,” says Shamma. “We haven’t decided what to do with it, it could be an expansion of the mall itself to grow the footplate of the mall or could be a completely new offering. So leaving it as that until the right opportunity arises.”

Delivering a large scale project in Doha has been a challenge. With almost all building materials and products being imported the supply chain is inelastic which requires thorough management and planning.

“There is no doubt that although the supply chain in Qatar is growing, it is still yet to match the region. A lot of items have to be brought in from abroad and that does pose a challenge for the programme, but we have been managing the process with [UK project management firm] Mace and ordering long lead items and their experience in shopping mall development means they anticipate very well which items will take time and they put that on their master programme and are able to manage those situations,” says Shamma. “We have been fairly fluent in getting long lead items shipped and matching the programme so I do not think that has really been a major issue.”

The Doha Festival City scheme is owned and developed by Bawabat al-Shamal, the parent company, which is supplying the land to build the project. Bawabat al-Shamal comprises four primary shareholders: Al-Futtaim Real Estate Services; Qatar Islamic Bank; Aqar Real Estate Investment Company; and a private company.