The success of Barka Grand Center in a short span has opened a new mall category – suburban community shopping and entertainment destination – in Oman. Buoyed by the encouraging response from the visitors and tenants, Barka Grand Center is moving ahead with the second phase of development. Akshay Bhatnagar reports
When we think of Barka, we tend to associate the coastal city with tourist spots, resorts and halwa. But Barka is emerging as a fast growing, thriving city with a population of over 135,000 people and a number of power plants, logistic centres and modern residential & commercial buildings. Interestingly, the suburb didn’t have a mall of its own despite the heightened economic activity and rapidly increasing population.
Al Tamman Real Estate, part of the diversified Muscat Overseas Group, recognised the gap in the market and definite need for a mall in Barka. Being a relatively new entrant in the real estate market in Oman, the Company decided to differentiate it from the competition by launching the concept of a suburban mall in the Sultanate. They launched Barka Grand Center – Barka’s own mall, a comprehensive shopping and entertainment destination primarily catering to the requirements of over 400,000 strong population of Al Batinah South region.
It was a unique but risky proposition. However, the response from the visitors and tenants has been overwhelming since its opening in May 2015. Hundreds of thousands of people have thronged the mall so far with footfalls going up quite steeply in the weekends and on special occasions like festivals, customized shows and promotions. Over 60 outlets including retail shops, food & beverage outlets, coffee shops and a money exchange apart from ATMs offer a wholesome experience to the visitors.
Most notable tenants are Carrefour as the hypermarket; Centerpoint, Max and Emax as the anchor stores. The Fun City is a major draw among the children and young visitors. The number of tenants is growing constantly as more Omani and international brands are recognizing the increasing popularity of Barka Grand Center and showing a keen interest in becoming a part of the favourite suburban community mall which is serving the demand of people’s lifestyle.
The mall’s design is quite remarkable. The bouquet of stores is located on the ground floor for an easy movement of the visitors. The interior design is quite stylish and appeals to those looking for a fusion of Omani aesthetics and contemporary look-and-feel. The mall located in a prime location on Muscat-Sohar highway is easily accessible. There is a convenient entry and exit to the mall through an exclusive flyover. With ample parking space, it offers a hassle-free experience to the shoppers and diners.
To make the experience of the visitors wholesome, the mall regularly organises events like live music, magic shows, dance extravaganzas, face painting, art exhibitions, cartoon character walks, etc. Many such events are linked to special occasions or themes. For example, in March, the mall has lined up exciting activities related to the theme “Arab Mother’s Day” which falls during the month. It has also been a preferred venue for social initiatives to promote road safety, health consciousness, supporting less privileged, etc. The mall partners with various government bodies and NGOs to undertake such social campaigns in its premises.
To further enhance the entertainment, shopping and dining experience for the visitors, the mall is further expanding its facilities. “Currently, the mall has a built-up area of 26,576 sq.m. with a gross leasable area (GLA) of 18,979 sq.m. After the completion of second phase of development, total built-up area will increase to 41,820 sq. m. including GLA of 23,019 sq. m. In the second phase, the mall will add a movie theater complex with multiple screens (multiplex), the first not just in Barka but Al Batinah South region. Many new retail and F&B outlets will also be introduced in the new development. This will make Barka Grand Center a complete integrated lifestyle destination,” informed a company spokesperson.
The mall has led to the creation of over 250 jobs for the people in Batinah region. After the second phase of development, this figure will increase further. Overall, the direct and indirect impact of the mall’s contribution to the local economy is quite significant.
On the growth plans of Al Tamman Real Estate going beyond Barka Grand Center, the spokesperson stated, “We are working aggressively on our vision to emerge as a leading player in the development and management of properties in the lifestyle segment. We are focusing primarily on shopping malls, hotels besides other unique hospitality, entertainment and education concepts. We are quite proud of our first project – Barka Grand Center. This is a stepping stone for us to reach higher. In the shopping malls segment, we are already in the midst of developing more grand centers in Al Khoud and Salalah.”