Gulf Related plans to open its $1bn Maryah Central retail complex on 1 March 2018.

The 170,000 square metre retail centre will be built on Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi next to Gulf Related’s 35,000 sq m Maryah Galleria, which opened in late 2013.

Work on the main contract is expected to start in early 2015 after a groundbreaking ceremony on 10 November. “We are ready to go, we are fully financed, the project starts here,” said Kenneth Himmel, president and chief executive officer, Related Urban speaking at the groundbreaking event.

The mall will be one of the biggest in the UAE and the largest in central Abu Dhabi. “We are a little bit smaller than Mall of the Emirates, we are a little bit smaller than Yas Mall, but we are an urban shopping mall right in the centre of Abu Dhabi,” said Himmel.

On top of the mall will be two towers. Karim el-Solh, co-managing partner of Gulf Related and CEO of Gulf Capital said the first will be a residential tower with serviced apartments, the second will be a hotel with 200-330 rooms.

The mall has two US-based department stores already leased. Bloomingdales will open its second store in the UAE, and Macy’s will open its first store outside the US. Al-Tayer Group, which sponsors the two department stores in the UAE, will also operate more than 20 other stores representing about one third of Al-Maryah Central’s total leasable space.

The local GR Sowwah Retail received prequalification documents from contractors for construction work on Al-Maryah Central in late October.

The retail centre will be built on Al-Maryah Island, which was formerly known as Sowwah Island. It will have 140,000 square metres of leasable area of five levels. Along with the two department stores it will have 400 other retail outlets together with food and beverage outlets and basement parking.

The project management consultant is US-based Aecom. The cost consultant is the UK’s Faithful+Gould.

GR Sowwah Retail is a special purpose vehicle created by Gulf Related, which is a joint venture of Saudi Arabia’s Gulf Capital and US-based Related.

Gulf Related developed the $60m Galleria at Sowwah Square. The contractor for Sowwah Square was Oger Abu Dhabi, which is the local affiliate of Saudi Oger.