Meet Gary Burrows, COO, Al Farwaniya Property Developments

Congratulations on the new position of COO Gary, how much are you looking forward to working on the unique Reem Mall project and what drew you to the position?

Thank you. They say the sand of the UAE forever stays on your shoulders and I always felt an urge to return to the region. Therefore, when the opportunity arose to join Al Farwaniya Property Developments and work on such a world class project, I jumped at the chance.

Reem Mall is not just a compelling business proposition; it’s a game changer for Abu Dhabi. The team here is awesome with such depth of talent, I feel privileged to be part of it. What will your new role entail as the Reem Mall scheme moves towards its completion?

The COO is a team co-ordination role and a guardian of quality and efficiency. First and foremost you have to be a facilitator and move things out of the way, to let excellent people achieve results. You don’t have to manage great people, you just give them clarity and support. I look forward to working with the team at Al Farwaniya, to win the hearts and minds of partners, stakeholders and future customers, as we move towards completion. I am incredibly energised to support our CEO and help lead the company to its next phase of innovation and operational excellence.

What do you feel your experience with major international companies across 35 different countries will bring to the role and project, and how will you look to utilise your experience?

I have lived in eight capital cities such as London, Dubai, Moscow, Budapest and Zagreb, I bring more than 29 years of international property management experience. Working with different people and cultures, has brought me a balanced and rounded perspective. For example I have enjoyed and am inspired by the collaborative and creative environment I experienced at IKEA in Moscow. The key to success is to evolve, adapt and innovate to stay relevant. I enjoy the creative process and Reem Mall is a smart mall that embraces next generation thinking, wrapped within a retail singularity that delivers a digital and physical customer experience like none seen thus far.


Moving onto the project…

The construction of Reem Mall is progressing smoothly, and recently passed 6.8 million man hours worked, with over 5,000 workers on site every day in three shifts, working day and night. They are seeing significant progress on a daily basis, and the final floor is now in place.

In terms of the key elements of the mall, it will offer two million square feet of world class leasable area. This will comprise of 450 local and international stores including 100 food and beverage outlets and a diverse portfolio of edutainment and entertainment anchors when it is expected to open in October 2020.

In addition, Reem Mall will also house the region’s largest indoor snow-play park, a 125,000 sq ft indoor amusement space, offering unique entertainment for the entire family including sledging, zorbing and luge. It’s the only indoor snow and play park in the world where it actually snows!

Burrows believes there are three key drivers for Reem Mall’s success – location at the heart of the city, world class offer and smart innovative sustainable space.

Reem Mall sits at the heart of new Abu Dhabi. With an investment exceeding $1.2 billion, it will become the ultimate retail, leisure and entertainment destination whilst enhancing the capital’s position as an international tourism hub in line with the UAE Vision 2021 and Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. Just off the main island, it is within easy reach of the main city population of 1.7 million future customers– so no need to drive miles out of their way. “Reem Island is set to be home to more than 200,000 residents as the master plan takes shape. To put that in context, that is nearly double the Dubai Marina’s mature population, thankfully with many more roads and seven bridges, with two new high speed access roads. This will become the key district in new Abu Dhabi and Reem Mall will become the heart of this new community,” says Burrows. The most recent partner to join the amazing retail line up is Sharaf DG, who will open their largest store in the capital at Reem Mall. This store will be the flagship store for the city and form a core element of the mall’s electronics’ retail offering.

Other significant brands to have signed up include the likes of Carrefour, Majid Al Futtaim, Landmark Group, Dubai Holding Group and Azadea Group to mention only a few.

The partnership with Majid Al Futtaim Ventures will deliver a fantastic range of leisure and entertainment destinations to Reem Mall and through this collaboration the scheme will host the next generation of concepts from award-winning VOX Cinemas, including the large format MAX screens, fine dining Theatre by Rhodes and the children focused VOX Kids. For the first time, VOX Cinemas will be fused with Magic Planet, the region’s largest network of family entertainment centres, to create an all-new leisure environment.

The vision of Reem Mall is to be the first fully digitally enabled mall in the world and be at the forefront of digital innovation in the retail industry. They are doing this through a forward-looking strategy that involves the emergence of digital products and technologies, helping them embrace customer needs and proactively producing innovative solutions in these dynamic times.


“Reem Mall also has a secret winning formula, with a huge logistics hub built into the basement, for last mile deliveries. Reem Mall will be the first to serve its retail tenants and business partners in this way, blending the online and offline process into one unique solution,” explains Burrows.

When it came to interior design, Reem Mall’s design team researched the history of Abu Dhabi and surveyed nearby geological formations, including a mangrove forest, the sea and the Sabkha Salt Flats. As a result, Reem Mall’s interior design is divided into three main themes (and areas): the Mangrove Atrium, the Urban Mall, and the Dynamic Mall.

Importantly, in addition to being visually striking, the design of Reem Mall is sustainable. The mall is committed to environmental sustainability and the sustainability goals of the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council and Abu Dhabi Vision 2030.

To date, Reem Mall has been awarded the Estidama 2 Pearl Design Rating by the Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council, surpassing the mandatory requirement. This was an indication of the sustainability focus delivered by Reem Mall’s development team through the design phase.

“I am a people person at heart and love to see new communities develop and grow into a lifetime of memories that bind an emotional connection to a building or space. We want to create something that people feel a connection with, a place to meet and relax, a place that they feel is their own, for generations to come. We are not developing a building, we are creating a legacy that the people of Abu Dhabi will take to their heart,” explains Burrows. “However, we have a mountain to climb and the hard yards are yet to come, opening a new project of this size is a monumental task. I am pleased that I am surrounded by people who instil me with confidence every day and a Board of Directors that allows us to make dreams come true” he concludes.