The man behind New York's Hudson Yards project says it was galvanized by Abu Dhabi's The Galleria
What does New York biggest real estate development Hudson Yards and Abu Dhabi's The Galleria Al Maryah Island have in common? The CEO of Related Urban and Managing Partner of Gulf Related Kenneth Himmel.
In New York, Himmel led the development of Hudson Yards, the largest private real estate development in American history since the Rockefeller Center.
Now, on a quick visit to Abu Dhabi for the opening of The Galleria's newest expansion, Himmel sat down with Esquire Middle East for a quick discussion around luxury and mall culture.
According to Himmel, in a country of malls, in the Middle East, The Galleria stands out beause there's actually an art and science behind building a mall.
"It’s an interesting and challenging combination of factors that suddenly results in something that stands out, and it’s both, an art and a science. There are many people that have the science part of it, there are very few people that have the art part of it," he says.
Himmel adds that it comes down to knowing how to pick the right kind of designers and architects and consultants, and then it is down to managing them.
"Even if you’ve got the art and the science, and the taste, you have to have the relationship with the tenants. And they have to have the confidence in your ability to run this the right way. That’s what we spend our entire careers putting together. All that has to come together which by definition, means is very rare when they turn out like this, they (projects) just don’t turn out this good.
However, Himmel adds that instead of The Galleria project being influenced by Hudson Yards the opposite was true.
"My experience in Abu Dhabi was way ahead of Hudson Yards, and the truth is, as a real estate developer, we don’t do malls, we had very little opportunity to deal with the luxury retail world in my whole career. The Galleria across the street, our first phase gave me the chance get in front of luxury brands and deliver something that amazed them," he said.
It was the level of execution and the relationship with all the major luxury brands that paved the way for the New York project.
"They can’t believe what we executed there, and they can’t believe how well it’s all been doing, so we got to meet all the guys at LVMH, Louis Vuitton, Sephora, Dior, Fendi, we got to meet Cartier, and as a result of all those relationships it opened the door even better for me in New York."
But for Himmel, what makes this project different is that it is so different from Dubai Mall, and Mall of the Emirates.
"We don’t have 25 million people visiting Abu Dhabi. We don’t have a population base, we don’t have the visitor base. So, this project had to be, what I call bespoke. It had to be customised for this market. And so instead of something over grandiose, right? We started with something very modest in its scale. If you look at the two projects combined, it’s now 1.8 million square feet, that’s big, but we’ve done it over a five year period, we didn’t throw it all in the market in one time. I think the combination of everything we put in here, delivers an overall balance. I think unparalleled, not just in Abu Dhabi, but the whole region."