Ozan Balaban, the Regional CEO of Emaar, tells GF Türkiye about their latest project on the Asian side of Istanbul, Turkey: Emaar Square.
Mr. Balaban, could you please give us details on the Emaar Square project? Which are the brands that will access the Turkish market for the first time?
Emaar Properties, is a leading company that has expertise in mixeduse projects both in Dubai and in the international arena. Emaar Square; is a project combining residence, hotel, mall and offices under the same roof, therefore it is dynamic with regard to the synergy these units provide for each other. When we first started the Emaar Square
project, I was posed questions on if it would work. However, the project is so massive that it creates its own dynamics. In analysis, a mall with 150.000 m2 area is way bigger than the rest. Certainly the biggest doesn’t mean the best unless you make the optimal combination. On the other hand, as retail is one of the main sectors Emaar excels at, most brands fall within our umbrella in the international arena. All these retail brands are aware that wherever Emaar is, the investment and the management of the project will be high-level and they’ll receive results. Besides, Emaar Square project is very special with its combination of shops: our visitors will find luxury as well as brands that appeal to B and C classes, in the same place.
As to the brands entering the Turkish market for the first time, we had previously announced the arrival of Galeries Lafayette. What really excites us is that other brands that reach large masses are all gathered
in the same area, which really is a difficult job. I think we succeeded there, on top of that we designed it in a way that people can have a good time. Our mall consists of 105 restaurants and cafés. That is the main reason behind the need to fill this gap on the Asian side. In Istanbul, it would be fair to say there are two cities and 60-
65% of luxury shoppers reside on the Asian side. Besides, it is crucial that Emirates enters Sabiha Gökçen Airport with 7 flights each week attracting an incredible number of tourists. Our hotel, ‘The Address’ will probably be the contracted hotel of Emirates. Istanbul is such a big city that, people stay on the Asian side and go to the other side using bridges and tunnels. This is the reason we chose the Asian side, believed that people looking for luxury will come here, too.
The geopolitical significance of Turkey increases its advantage of attracting the money in the region. Despite our current political situation, Russians will still come, The Chinese and Iranians also. When you examine the high-end markets; Iraq, Syria, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan have been catering for their needs from
Turkey for many years now. It’s been long since the Middle-east discovered Turkey. Arab tourists used to be exploited, that mentality has also changed completely in the past 5-6 years now. Hence, we are very positive, these are the main reasons behind our decision to realize and rely on this project so much…
Do foreigners represent a high percentage in your target market?
We aren’t actually developing this place for the foreign tourists, the rate is no higher than 20-25%; but we’d probably receive around 30 million visitors annually. People already swarm Istanbul for shopping. It also shows in many brand analyses that Istanbul is a triangle; on one corner firmly stands Istinye Park, the other will be a competition between Nişantaşı and Zorlu Center, the 3rd will be Emaar Square.
Wherever Emaar invests in, there will always be foreign customers since we have an internationally-wide portfolio. However, that is relatively low here, because they choose our fully-furnished flats managed by our hotel, The Address. Most of our foreign customers are from the Middle-east and when their families come here they prefer them to stay in the luxury of a five-star hotel. The Address
fulfills that need; whether they let us rent out their apartments or they use it, the customer profile to that effect will consist 90% of foreigners.
At this point the most surprising development for us was that the larger flats were gone sooner than we anticipated. Our smaller flats benefit from the low VAT of 1%, therefore we kept the number of larger ones relatively low, however they were bought rapidly which shows us that people really want to live here. That
is the main aim of a mixed-use project; the apartments support the mall, the mall supports the hotel and so on, creating its own dynamics within. A mega project such as ours really suit this side of Istanbul, so we realized it.
When will Emaar Square start its full-fledged operation?
We begin to deliver our residences in March this year, hopefully we’ll have completed delivering 50%, which is 500 of them by the end of 2016. Our mall is opening in September, 2016. The hotel will be completed by the end of 2017. We have already started pre-renting our office building and as Emaar, we will be the first tenants. There is another important detail; we’re not selling, instead keeping the mall, offices and the hotel under our own
incorporation. We will later open Emaar to Turkish public, therefore we’d like to keep it in a basket that creates income and drive value for the real investor.
Emaar Square also consists of entertainment centers with 2
separate concepts for children: One with a ‘discovery center’ with 5000 m2 of area, that kids can come to play and learn at the same time. Another is a ‘fun lab’, where both adults and their children can spend time together, which is quite important. The largest cinemas in Istanbul will be here: 15 IMAX theatres. This place isn’t only a mall, but a lot more with its 105 cafés and restaurants… All the architectural details, in regard to their location and brands have been designed with the consideration of making people feel at ease. Consequently, when we open up, this place will be a very interesting location with many surprises and will contribute a great deal to the tourism of Istanbul.
What are the other luxury brands in Istanbul that will take their place at Emaar Square?
We would like to announce them with a mutual press release on an agreed date. But I can tell you that in total we have 490 shops and boutiques and amongst 80-100 of them are luxury brands, 10-15% will be new ones that haven’t yet entered Istanbul. We also have boutiques with VIP areas; these have 2 storeys, because customers desire to receive exclusive service. Luxury has a different kind of definition.
Will tax-free be declared here and refunded instantaneously in cash, the same way in Istinye Park?
Certainly, but we have other improved services such as, storing excess shopping bags of our customers, bringing lost children to a day-care center…For instance, we have a place called, ‘click&collect’: whatever you order online will arrive here, all you have to do is come, try and return if you wish. We also have a huge car park to fit in 5000. We’ll provide you with a touchpad which will tell you the exact location of your car as soon as you enter the
number plate. We have a whole team of innovation working on these ideas with the expertise of Emaar, of course.
We started marketing last year, now we have launched several TV commercials and applications for the androids. Guests of The Address will all be acknowledged about the project, which in turn will all create a synergy. It’s really exciting in many senses…
Good luck with that, but you already are a company with firm partnerships which helps you rise above many others. Congratulations…
Thank you. Upto this point, people have been buying from us without seeing a sight, but I’m certain from this point on as the construction emerges and proves its quality they will understand how rightful their choice was, confiding in Emaar.
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