The scent of fresh grass, a canopy of towering trees, the gentle murmur of flowing water and the sprawling stretches of manicured lawns – these form the perfect picture of summer. Welcome to CapitaMall Xuefu’s Dream Park, Harbin’s first indoor garden. In a city famously known as the Ice City, where the winters are among the coldest (temperatures have been known to dip to -38 degrees Celsius) and longest (up to half a year) in China, this is the only place to enjoy summer all year round.
Dream Park can be found in the seven-storey CapitaMall Xuefu, which is located in Harbin’s Nangang district. Spanning 9,800 square metres (sq m) of space, this indoor garden was specially designed to resemble a slice of the Amazon rainforest.
“We wanted to use the space creatively and to give our shoppers a unique experience. So our team put our heads together and asked ourselves what it is in a cold place like Harbin that our shoppers would most appreciate. The idea of Dream Park arose because for the people who live here, it is truly a wonderful experience to enjoy summer in a garden all year round,” said Liu Kai, General Manager, Mall Management, CapitaMall Xuefu and CapitaMall Aidemengdun.
“Central to the park is the concept of a mall-in-a-mall which aims to create a place that has a different atmosphere and experience from the rest of the mall.”
Statuesque trees, blooming bushes, fragrant flowers, plots of fresh grass and birds flitting about within the 9,800 sq m area bring the exotic to the shoppers. Two giant glass feature walls measuring 120 square metres house tropical plants and an aquarium with nearly 30 different types of ornamental fish. This iconic display has since become a focal point for photo opportunities.
Bringing Nature indoors on such a grand scale was no easy task. The project took an entire year to complete, including plans for maintaining the plants and fish. Landscape architects and ornamental fish experts were consulted to make the place look and feel as authentic as possible.
All-encompassing Shoppers’ Paradise
To realise the vision of turning the area into the ultimate shopping, dining, chill-out and events venue in Harbin, cafes and restaurants surround the park. The food outlets, housed in charming European-inspired architecture, offer an alfresco dining experience not always possible in Harbin’s frigid weather. The Baroque-style street lamps and cobblestone pathways transport shoppers to another time and place while the airy, outdoor feel is enhanced by the extra high ceiling, which extends eight metres from the ground.
“We are always striving to bring innovation and unique experiences to enhance our malls and engage our shoppers. This sustainable park was the result of the team studying market trends and preferences.”
“CapitaMall Xuefu’s Dream Park is not only an eco attraction that helps people to appreciate Nature, it is also a sensory smorgasbord that appeals to the five senses. For that, we partnered with the tenants to offer retail and dining options to develop the best mix,” explained Chow Chee Khang, a member of the CapitaLand Sustainability Steering Committee and Head of Design Management (Mechanical & Electrical) at CapitaMalls Asia.
The overall effect has won the park high praises from shoppers.
“It’s winter outside but summer in here. It’s quite a novel idea. They have managed to replicate that European feel that is quite like home. I will definitely come back here with my friends,” said European shopper, Ye Fugen, in Mandarin.
More than 20 popular restaurants have been added to the existing mix of over 60 F&B; options at CapitaMall Xuefu, including burger bar Feeney’s, Banyan Tree Tea, German eatery Dawson Brasserie, Hashi Japanese Restaurant and ZOO COFFEE.
“The best thing about this place is that there are lots of cafes around. I can sip my coffee and enjoy the beautiful view or I can read a book. All the malls have shopping options but this is the only place with such a refreshing garden,” said another shopper, Zhang Zeyuan.
The varied tenant mix is also a huge draw for shoppers. Fashion names include Russian casual apparel brand O’stin, American street wear label Politix and New Look, while the BHG department store and children-friendly brands such as The Green Party add to the allure of this multi-faceted shopping mall.
The diverse offering of different cuisines and the extension of operating hours to 11 pm are major plus points for the increasingly trendy crowd that congregates at the mall. The fact that CapitaMall Xuefu is the first mall in the city to open until later adds to its hip vibe.
Korean shoppers Jiang Hemu and Jin Yalan said, “This is a great place to sit at and chat. [With the longer hours], this will surely be one of the places we will frequent until late at night.”
Apart from being a public hangout spot, Dream Park can also be leased out for private events such as weddings, engagement parties, birthdays and other social occasions, as well as corporate events such as product launches and media conferences, exhibitions, festivals and performances – the possibilities are limitless.
Taiwanese tourist Chen Youchen welcomed this idea, “This place would look lovely with themed decorations inspired by different occasions. It is quite unexpected to encounter such a huge garden inside a mall. I love the grassy areas and the water feature.”
On the day of Dream Park’s opening, over 82,000 shoppers rushed to be among the first to experience the indoor garden. Shopper traffic for that day was at an all time high, almost double that of a year ago. Interest in Dream Park remained high in the first month of launch and CapitaMall Xuefu’s shopper traffic for December 2014 was about 74% higher compared to a year ago.
With the promise of a summer experience that can be enjoyed all year round, complete with innovative shopping and dining options and extended operating hours, everything, it seems, is coming up roses at CapitaMall Xuefu’s Dream Park.