Local developer Emaar Properties is preparing to issue tender documents by early August for the contract to build the world’s largest shopping mall at Dubai Creek Harbour.

Sources close to the project say the retail centre could cost AED15-18bn ($4bn-$5bn) to build, which will make it the largest real estate building contract ever undertaken in the GCC. The largest to date is the $3.5bn Abraj Kudai development in Mecca that was awarded to the Saudi Binladin Group in 2013.

The contractors that are expected to be invited to form joint ventures and bid for the contract to build the Dubai Creek Harbour mall are:

The total built-up area of the mall is expected to be about 3 million square metres with 1.7 million sq m of retail, 550,000 sq m of residential, 180,000 of commercial, a 175,000 sq m basement, and a 40,000 sq m hotel. Emaar’s Dubai Mall, which is the world’s largest shopping centre by total area, has a total area of 1.124 million sq m.

The consultants working on the mall are Netherlands-based Arcadis and the UK’s Benoy.

The decision to move ahead with a large mall comes at an uncertain time for retail as the sector adapts to the rise of e-commerce in the region.

Speaking at the launch of online retailer Noon.com late last year, Emaar chairman Mohamed Alabbar said the retail sector is growing enough for both physical and online retailers to grow. “The reality is that we live in two worlds. Total retail is increasing anyway,” he says. 

Commenting on the retail centre at Dubai Creek Harbour, he said the digital paradigm will be reflected in the design of the mall as it will be a place for people go and be entertained as well as shop. “What we are building is a completely different animal. You will never see one piece of marble or one piece of granite. You will see digital and a lot of social places. And by the way, there will be some shops there.”

Another key component of the Dubai Creek Harbour development is the world’s tallest structure known as The Tower at Dubai Creek Harbour.

Emaar recently went back to the market to find contractors to work on the tower. According to sources close to the project, the developer has asked construction companies to express interest in the main construction contract.

The move comes despite Emaar appointing two contracting groups to provide pre-construction services over a period of six months for the tower earlier this year. At the time it was expected that the main construction contract would be awarded to one of the two groups.

MEED reported in April that the two groups selected for pre-construction services are a joint venture of South Korea’s Samsung C+T and the local/Belgian Belhasa Six Construct, and a team of the local Dutco Group and Tishman – which is part of the US’ Aecom. It is understood that both groups have not been able to agree on a budget and terms and conditions with Emaar.

The 6-square-kilometre Dubai Creek Harbour development is located in the Ras al-Khor area on the banks of Dubai Creek. The programme manager for the development is US-based Hill International. The scheme is being developed by a joint venture of Emaar and Dubai Holding