International

Dubai says it’s building world’s biggest shopping mall

Mall of the World will have climate-controlled street grid, 100 hotels and apartment buildings, covered theme park

Dubai, a shopping-loving city that is already home to one of the world's largest malls, now wants to build one even bigger.

The emirate’s ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, has laid out plans for a sprawling real-estate project, the Mall of the World, which will include an 8-million-square-foot mall, a climate-controlled street network, a theme park covered during the scorching summer months and 100 hotels and serviced apartments.

Dubai Holding, the company behind the project, says on its website that the mall will be the world's largest, but that claim could not be independently confirmed. By comparison, Minnesota's Mall of America, the largest in the United States, is 4.87 million square feet.

Plans for the project also include a cultural and theater district drawing inspiration from New York's Broadway, a shopping thoroughfare based on London's Oxford Street and a wellness district meant to attract medical tourists.

The complex will be built near the Mall of the Emirates, which has an indoor ski slope, and is a short drive from the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest tower, and the adjacent Dubai Mall. That shopping center is currently the emirate's largest and features a dinosaur skeleton, an indoor ice-skating rink and a multistory aquarium.

"The growth in family and retail tourism underpins the need to enhance Dubai's tourism infrastructure as soon as possible," Mohammed said Saturday in a statement announcing the plan. "This project complements our plans to transform Dubai into a cultural, tourist and economic hub for the 2 billion people living in the region around us, and we are determined to achieve our vision."

Dubai Holding gave no details about the expected cost or completion date.

The emirate has long used high-profile, big-ticket real estate projects in attempt to drive economic growth and establish itself as an international tourist destination. Its ambitions were slowed by a financial crisis that came to a head in 2009, forcing the delay or cancellation of some of its more outlandish plans.

Dubai Holding was not spared from the financial turmoil, and some of its divisions sought new repayment terms from lenders on a debt pile that reached into the billions of dollars.

The emirate's economy has rebounded strongly in the years since the crisis, driven by trade, transportation and tourism.

Dubai is racing to develop additional infrastructure needed to accommodate a surge in visitors expected when it becomes the first Middle Eastern city to host the World Expo, in 2020. Authorities expect that event to generate $23 billion from 2015 to 2021 and estimate it will cost $8.4 billion to organize.

The new mall project alone is expected to create an additional 20,000 hotel rooms.

The Associated Press

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