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Cool theatre and great acoustics (photo: Stephan Andrew/White Star)

The Atrium Mall exemplifies the power of small ideas. By offering a service as basic as valet parking, the Mall’s management has taken the sting out of a trip to Saddar, the heart of Karachi’s central business district. Instantly, the latest addition to the city’s malls looks like a friendlier, better place to shop.

Modern architecture under a glass umbrella (Photo: Stephan Andrew/White Star)

Although there is not very much to buy – for now…. Shoe retailers Bata, Nike, Servis and Urban Sole have opened their doors but there is little coherence to the other businesses. There’s Gul Ahmed’s Ideas, and a tiny shop selling jewellery and watches (which seems ironic since the mall is located on the arterial road featuring predominantly jewellery stores, where bigger and glitzier is better). There is also a random assortment of clothing stores – a shop selling funky T-shirts, women’s prêt (a lingerie store as well as a shop selling generic embroidered stuff) and menswear (formal shirts, casual wear, and sherwanis). There is a music shop and an Apple store is on its way, but the Atrium doesn’t have a real shopping vibe as yet.

Your choice of caramel or salted popcorn (Photo: Stephan Andrew/White Star)

But it does have another big-small idea: entertainment. The real crowd-puller at the Atrium is the multiplex. The screens are comparable to the best in Karachi – think Prince or Nishat – without the parking woes. Chomping through a bucket of caramel popcorn in a cool theatre with great acoustics makes the sizzling megapolis outside seem pretty far away. Or gaming: focus hard enough on the play at hand and you may just forget how many people have been shot in the city since Monday. Given the numbers outside the ticketing booth and in the gaming area, many Karachiites consider this compensation enough.

And where there are hordes, there is food. Within a few months of its opening, the Atrium has managed to attract the usual suspects (Dunkin’ Donuts, KFC, Pizza Hut), Karachi favourites (Arizona Grill, a Chinese place, a coffee-and-sandwich joint) as well as counters in the food court selling bagels, frozen yoghurt, tacos and burritos. The assortment of food seems puzzling initially; Saddar became a strictly middle-income shopping destination some decades ago. But with its lifestyle centre concept, the Atrium has single-handedly pulled the well-heeled back to Saddar. These are the consumers who will spend the morning engaged in vigorous retail therapy and in the afternoon, grab bagels and burritos before collapsing in front of a screen playing the latest 3D release. Spending is also a way out of the recession, you know.




200 sq ft

24,000-28,000 5-20 million

400 sq ft

48,000-56,000 10-40 million

600 sq ft

72,000-84,000 15-60 million

800 sq ft

96,000-112,000 20-80 million

1,000 sq ft

120,000-140,000 25-100 million

— Soha Ahmed
Send your feedback to realestate.review@dawn.com.

First published in the Real Estate Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on November 27, 2012.