Building Mall Within the University City of Sharjah

Construction projects within higher learning institutions require approval from several parties since there are always conflicting interests. The proposal to build a big shopping mall in the University City of Sharjah is part of the plans of the government of the UAE to increase infrastructural development in the learning institutions that can benefit the students, local residents, and the extended faculty. Since the American University of Sharjah is located in the outskirt of the Sharjah city, there has been a concern on inconveniences as a result of the lack of a convenient and strategically located mall to serve the need of . This reason formed the rationale for the proposed mall within the University City of Sharjah.

The underlying scope of the mall construction proposal was to provide affordable, convenient, and diverse shopping experiences for different products and services such as restaurants, cinema, health clubs (spa and massage parlor), accommodation hotel for visiting relative of the students, fast food courts, and a sports arena. Besides, the construction of the mall within University City of Sharjah was seen as being economically viable since its customer catchment area was expansive beyond the students and faculty members since there are several residential estates surrounding the American University of Sharjah. Thus, this report will review the perception of the students of the American University of Sharjah on the proposed mall through an online focused group survey. The paper will then analyze the findings and make recommendations to the committee of the proposed mall construction.

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Background of study
There are several higher learning institutions spread across the University City of Sharjah. The education complex city covers an area equivalent to six and a half square kilometers and is located almost twelve kilometers from the center of the city of Sharjah. Among the notable learning institutions in the region include the University of Sharjah, American University of Sharjah, Sharjah Police Academy, and Skyline College among others. These institutions provide on-campus living for students and faculty members (TEN Education, 2014).

The American University of Sharjah is the largest learning institution in the University City of Sharjah and enrolls students from multicultural groups since it follows the US learning system. At the beginning of the 2014 intake, the American University of Sharjah enrolled more than 5000 students from across the globe (American University of Sharjah, 2014). Within this population, 39% of the students are provided with the and accommodation. Besides, the accommodation services are extended to the American University of Sharjahs faculty members who are more than 400 (AUS-Fast Facts, 2014).

Research methodology
In order to establish the perceptions of the students of the American University of Sharjah on the proposed construction of a shopping mall within the University City of Sharjah, I opted for online focused group survey. I forwarded the survey questionnaire to 41 participants via their emails. The study opted for open and in data collection. The sample was chosen randomly across different year of study, ages, gender, and other responsibility within the American University of Sharjah. The was conducted over a period of one week.

Summary of the response statistics gathered
The online-based research survey engaged 41 respondents. The response rate was recorded at 100% since all the survey forms were returned. 80.49% of the respondents were females while 19.51% were males. The respondents across the freshman, sophomore, senior and junior students were well distributed with each group representing more or less similar percentage.

Research Findings and Discussion
Apparently, the proposal to construct a large mall within the University City of Sharjah received approval and disapproval rates of 87.8% and 7.32% among students of the American University of Sharjah, respectively. Only 4.88% of the respondents were unsure as indicated in appendix 2. The responses from the respondents who supported the proposed construction of a mall indicated a lot of excitement as a result of opportunities that the project will present to them. The 87.8% approval rate is a clear indication that the respondents were keenly looking forward to the actual shopping experience that guarantees convenience, variety, and wellbeing through the numerous health clubs that such projects bring. For instance, a respondent noted that the mall would be a solution to the current challenge of shopping very far away. Most of the respondents indicated that the inconvenience of driving or boarding a taxi to go shop more that 11 kilometers away would be a thing of the past should the proposed project become a reality.

In response to the question of the likelihood of the relatives of the students to seek accommodation at the hotel in the mall, 19.51% of the respondents indicated that it was very likely while 34.15% of the respondents indicated a maybe response. However, 12.20% of the respondents were unsure with 34.15% indicating highly unlikely. A respondent noted that her parents already live within the neighborhood. Most of the respondents indicated that their visiting relatives have friends who can accommodate them within Sharjah. Besides, some of the respondents noted that they live within the region of Sharjah as indicated in appendix 4.

In answering the question on the type of retail outlets that the respondents would prefer to be available at the mall, restaurants got the highest rating of 8.32 followed by a fashion outlet. Coffee shops, cosmetics, entertainment, supermarket, bookstore, and jewelry followed in the same sequence. Apart from one respondent who skipped the question on fashion brand, the rest of the respondents recommended the Zara fashion brand (score of 5.92) as the most preferred if fashion stores will be within the mall. This was followed by Mango, Forever 21, Massimo Dutti, Bershka, Nike, and Addidas in the same sequence as indicated in appendix 5.

In raking the preferred restaurant in the proposed mall, 40 responses were recorded. The most preferred restaurant was the PF Changs (4.15) followed by Vapiano (4.00), and Texas Roadhouse (3.95). The preferential rates of the rest of the restaurant brands were 3.0 for the Leila, 3.52 for the Cheesecake Factory, and 2.44 for the Al Forno as indicated in appendix 7. In answering question 6, which requested for ranking of different retailers, according to preferred jewelry at the mall, 39 responses were gathered. Chopard brand has the highest rating of 5.08 while the Mont Blanc has the least rating of 2.78 as indicated in appendix 6.

In terms of the number of possible visits to the proposed mall, 10 respondents indicated that they would visit the mall at least 2 times per week. Eight respondents indicated that they would visit the mall at least once per week while six respondents in two categories indicated that they would visit the mall at least thrice and five times per week, respectively. 17.07% and 9.76% of the respondents indicated that they would visit the restaurant at least four times and six times per week, respectively. This is summarized in appendix 8.

In responding to the question on the possibilities of distractions by the proposed mall, the responses of 34.15% of the sample population were yes while 39.02% of the sample population were no. However, 26.83% were unsure. The negative response was supported by arguments such as increased traffic and disruption of study due to increased mall activities as indicated in appendix 9. One of the respondents stated one of the obstructions as students will focus less on their studies.

Comparative analysis
The Matajer Al Juraina is a relatively smaller shopping center within the University City of Sharjah. The center has several food outlets, supermarket, and entertainment services. The center covers 4000 square meters (Matajer, 2014). Therefore, the proposed mall would directly interfere with the business activities at the Matajer Al Juraina. However, the center lacks several services such as health clubs, fashion centers, and accommodation facilities, which the proposed mall will provide as noted by the students of the American University of Sharjah.

Benefits of the proposed mall
Among the benefits identified by the respondents included variety of services, convenient shopping since the mall will be within the University City of Sharjah, and better wellbeing as a result of the healthy food clubs and a sporting arena, which will be in the mall. Besides, the respondents identified the accommodating services at the mall as beneficial to their visiting relatives who had to travel twelve kilometers to seek accommodation. Moreover, the respondents noted that they will save a lot of time which was previously spent driving up to 12 kilometers away to do shopping. In addition, the respondents were optimistic that the prices in the mall will be friendly.

From the research findings, there is a need to ensure that the prices and quality of services at the mall are friendly to the students since this group fall in the low disposal income bracket. Besides, the entertainment services at the mall should be regulated in terms of time and frequency to enable the student to balance between entertainment and studies. Lastly, in order to regulate the possible disruption of studies, the proposed mall should not be located within the premises of the university.

Although the majority of the students supported the proposed mall, there is need to observe the above recommendations to ensure that the negative impacts of the project are minimized. Besides, there is need to observe the religious and cultural values of the University City of Sharjah in terms of design, services, location, and friendliness.


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