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The new DCity Mall is much more than just a mirage in the desert

CM 12/08/2021

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This is not just another mall,” said Pnina Revach, the CEO of the new DCity complex in Mishor Adumim, the industrial zone of Ma’aleh Adumim, which opened this week as the largest and fanciest design mall in Israel. “The experience will make you feel like you are on vacation abroad. You have to come and see it to believe it.”
Her words weren’t empty, even for a cynical reporter. In the first few minutes after I got to the mall for the grand opening celebration, I saw a line of cabaret girls dancing in front of a giant fountain, a band of oriental drummers, street performers dressed up in flamboyant costumes, and musical performers in nearly every corner. And that’s before I arrived at the indoor piazza and food court, which is designed as a replica of the famous Venetian Resort in Las Vegas, complete with an artificial indoor sky. The night would eventually conclude with laser light shows and a rock concert.
Whether or not DCity is like a vacation abroad, it really is like nothing we’ve ever seen here.
Spread over 150,000 square meters, and with an investment of some NIS 750 million, DCity intends to change the shopping experience and elevate the entire Ma’aleh Adumim area in the process. The mall includes some 200 storefronts, as well a food court with top restaurants, and a luxury hotel. A children’s amusement park with about 40 rides nearby will open in the coming month, and in the future, additional complexes will offer further entertainment options.

There will be live performances and events almost every day of the year, giving people no shortage of reasons to come out and visit, Revach said. Most of the mall is outdoors, which helps remove many of the challenges of opening during the pandemic, she added.
Celebrities have been hawking the three-day gala opening this week, including Guy Zu-Aretz and Yael Bar-Zohar, and big-name acts, including Moshe Peretz and Ethnix, appeared as the main attractions amid the street performers and school dance troupes.
AS FAR as shopping goes, DCity has taken a unique approach as well. The focus is on home design, and the vast majority of the stores sell furniture, appliances, ceramics, housewares, and the like.
DCity has enticed most of Israel’s top home companies and many foreign brands to set up shop here, including many that have not previously had storefronts anywhere in the country. The goal is to become a mecca for the entire home design industry nationwide, with everything for design or renovations in one place.
That would allow it to fill a vacuum left by the decline of Talpiot, the neighborhood that has until now been Jerusalem’s home center.
“A lot of the stores have already moved out of Talpiot, and it basically doesn’t exist anymore from a home shopping perspective,” noted Israel Gross, who was visiting the mall with his child from Givat Ze’ev. “That was built 50 or 60 years ago, while this is a new, modern place designed for how people like to shop today.”
Many of the businesses in the mall see things the same way.
“Jerusalem shoppers are starting to get accustomed to the shopping habits of the most sophisticated cities in the world, and they will not continue to be satisfied with the Talpiot industrial zone,” said Golan Simany, manager of the DCity branch of IDdesign, an upscale furniture store. “We already see that our target market in Jerusalem is already moving over here instead, so we closed our Talpiot branch in order to open here. We expect that Talpiot will be undergoing many changes in the coming period, and that it will cease to be the city’s destination for home design very soon.”
“It’s a one-stop shop with everything you need in one place, with beautiful facilities and an abundance of parking,” added Yitzhak, manager of the In-Out door store. “It is not unrealistic to expect it will take a large portion of the shopping volume from Talpiot.”
While the main focus of DCity is on home design, the indoor part of the mall is dedicated to restaurants and “traditional” mall stores, and a strip on the second floor will be dedicated to clothing stores, opening in the coming weeks, Revach noted.
“If we were going to offer a bunch of clothing shops, you could go to Malha or another mall,” Revach said. “What we are doing is something special.”
DCITY’S EXPECTATIONS are as large as its vision. Revach said she expects 10 million visitors to come each year, including three million tourists. (Quick math: That comes out to about 27,000 visitors per day, in line with some of the largest malls in Israel. It’s also approximately the number of visitors to the Western Wall every year.)
“Today, there are no foreign tourists here, but we expect that Israelis on vacation will stop in on their drives toward the Dead Sea or Eilat. Currently, the only stops along the roads down to the Negev are gas stations, and they will certainly choose to come in here for their rest breaks instead.”
 THE DCITY complex is spread over 150,000 square meters, and with an investment of some NIS 750 million. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST) THE DCITY complex is spread over 150,000 square meters, and with an investment of some NIS 750 million. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Jerusalem, the largest city in Israel, doesn’t have a great mall like the ones in the center of the country, and people will flock to DCity for entertainment and shopping, Revach said. Some 1.5 million people live within a 35-minute drive of the mall, and once people in Tel Aviv get familiar with it, they, too, will be happy to drive more than an hour to get there, she said.
For those in Jerusalem who need further enticement, there will be buses running every 20 minutes from the International Convention Center throughout the year.
The success of the DCity complex will bring change to the entire Ma’aleh Adumim area, Revach said. “Until now, people didn’t come to this area, because there wasn’t so much here,” she said. “Once they see everything we are creating, there will be a lot more people and commerce coming here.”
The city of Ma’aleh Adumim, with a population of some 40,000, has jumped on the opportunity to begin repositioning itself as a growing economic center.
“In order to position Ma’aleh Adumim as an independent, economically viable city with a high quality of life and places of employment and trade, we are promoting unprecedented projects here,” said the city’s mayor, Benny Kashriel. “In addition to a source of entertainment, shopping and leisure, the complex will provide hundreds of jobs for residents of the city and the surrounding area.”
The municipality recently renamed its Mishor Adumim industrial zone, where DCity is located, as Park Israel. If the old name evokes images of dusty factory outlets, the rebranding “reflects the area’s new reality as a modern destination for shopping and leisure,” a city official said.
Buses around Jerusalem have been sporting billboards featuring Kashriel inviting people to visit.
REVACH INSISTED that the mall will be open to Jews and Arab citizens equally, with intensive marketing campaigns geared to both populations. However, people on hand this week noticed that there were scarcely any Palestinians in the large crowds.
Palestinians without Israeli citizenship or a Jerusalem identity card can enter the industrial area only if they have a work permit.
“I definitely noticed that there have not been many Arab shoppers in the past few days,” said one store owner. “Maybe the attraction of the festival hasn’t spoken to the Arab community, but I believe they will come.”
Politics was not a factor that the company took into consideration when it decided to open a mall in the desert in the West Bank, Revach said. “We don’t have any ideological agenda, and we weren’t given any government grants. We were able to buy the land very inexpensively, and we are using the money we saved to provide a great service.”
The mall’s owner is the Kass Investment Group, headed by the religiously observant and baby-faced Hanoch Kass, who seems too young to be running a commercial empire.
The group has a number of boutique mall complexes in Israel and Georgia, but DCity is by far its largest project.
Kass was on hand for the opening, schmoozing with guests and constantly on the phone with various managers. He declined to be interviewed for this article, but he was brimming with confidence that the mall would prove successful “without a doubt.”
The complete confidence that Kass and Revach express in DCity is a bit disconcerting. There are very serious questions about whether a complex in the desert, over the Green Line, will be able to attract so many visitors, especially during a time when the pandemic is keeping any sort of future visibility to a minimum.
Less than two kilometers away from the edifice that has sprung up against the barren landscape is the ramshackle Khan al-Ahmar Bedouin encampment, in the news for years over Israel’s attempts to relocate the residents. The juxtaposition of the resplendent luxury of DCity and the squalor of the encampment might prove to be too jarring for some Israelis.
Kass, his investors and the shop owners and restaurant owners are banking on most people not caring, or being too mesmerized by the magical Emerald City rising out of the desert.
The first impressions coming from visitors are glowing.
“I’m blown away. This is the most amazing place I’ve ever been to, and I can’t believe we’re just outside Jerusalem,” said Minky, visiting from Jerusalem’s Romema neighborhood.
She smiled. “I definitely plan to come back, with a lot of money.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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