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Danubia mall vows to open before competitors

Bratislava shoppers looking for a one-stop shopping centre - where they can buy groceries, eat meals in a restaurant, purchase furniture and household appliances, watch movies or get a haircut - won't have to wait much longer.
Manta Group, the Slovak subsidiary of the French developer Campenon Bernard, began construction of the Danubia Shopping Center (DSC) on September 15 in Petržalka. When completed next June, it will be the first of three large shopping centres to open in Bratislava - the Polus Center in Nové Mesto, (developed by TriGránit), is scheduled to open in November, 2000, and the Bratislava Shopping Center (HB Reavis) in April, 2001.


A computer image of the Danubia Shopping Centre, which will bring 45,000 square metres of retail space to the capital.
photo: Courtesy of Manta Group

Bratislava shoppers looking for a one-stop shopping centre - where they can buy groceries, eat meals in a restaurant, purchase furniture and household appliances, watch movies or get a haircut - won't have to wait much longer.

Manta Group, the Slovak subsidiary of the French developer Campenon Bernard, began construction of the Danubia Shopping Center (DSC) on September 15 in Petržalka. When completed next June, it will be the first of three large shopping centres to open in Bratislava - the Polus Center in Nové Mesto, (developed by TriGránit), is scheduled to open in November, 2000, and the Bratislava Shopping Center (HB Reavis) in April, 2001.

While the rash of shopping centres may make household purchases convenient for the customer, some real estate experts say that Bratislava cannot support two shopping centres, let alone three. On the other hand, economic analysts and developers banking on a revival of Slovakia's languishing economy say that they expect the shopping centres to thrive.

"Within two years, the government will succeed in turning the economy around," said Ivan Chodák, an equity analyst with CA IB Securities in Bratislava. "At that point, domestic [spending power] will increase."

One-stop centre

Campenon Bernard is no stranger to Slovak developments. According to Karol Forgáč, Mantra Group's legal representative, the DSC will be the French firm's third project in Bratislava, after the Hotel Forum and the Hotel Danube developments.

Forgáč said that the DSC will cover 11 hectares of land and offer 45,000 square metres (m2) of retail space. The main operator of the retail space will be the French retailer Carrefour, which will open a 7,200 m2 hypermarket. Carrefour has also contracted to open a 14,400 m2 hypermarket in the Polus Center.

DSC's exclusive leasing agent will be MIPA. According to Fogáč, MIPA is in "serious negotiations" with potential tenants such as Italian fasion chain Terranova, clothing outlet Group Andre, shoe maker Baťa and the German hairdressing chain Klier.

Other attractions at the DSC will be cafes, 4,000 m2 of boutiques, and 2,000 m2 of restaurants (including a pizzeria and possibly a McDonald's; Fogáč said the firm is currently negotiating with the American fast-food chain). The DSC will also offer family entertainment in the form of a six-screen multiplex movie theatre, Fogáč added.

The total cost of the shopping centre will amount to some 500 million Slovak crowns ($12 million) and will be financed through loans from French banks. However, Fogáč would not name the banks nor the conditions of the loans.

Bad investment?

When real estate developer TriGránit announced its plans on September 21 to open the Polus Centre in Bratislava, some analysts questioned the wisdom of the venture in a country with an average monthly salary of 10,000 Slovak crowns ($250).

Igor Federoňko, statutory representative of the Bratislava Real Estate Office, said in September that two shopping centres could not be supported by price-conscious Slovak shoppers. Now, with the announcement of the construction of another large Bratislava shopping centre, Federoňko again suggested that it would be a poor investment.

"I'm not sure that with the current economic situation that this is a good investment," he said. "They are expecting the economic situation to improve - maybe in 10 or 15 years they will make a profit, but not for the next few years."

Chodák agreed that profits may not be instantaneous, but added that profitable returns down the line might make up for losses at the outset. "Developers must calculate according to the long term, not the short term," he said.

Fogáč, meanwhile, said that he was confident the DSC would be a success both in the long term and in the immediate future. DSC will have an advantage over other local shopping centres, he said, because it will open first, thus assuring short-term success. Long-term success, he added, will be achieved when the economy improves, which Mantra Group economic analysts said was sure to happen within the next few years.

"We will be the first western-style shopping centre in Bratislava," said Fogáč. "People need a one-stop shopping centre where they can buy everything they need, meet their friends and relax."

Additional reporting by
Martina Pisárová

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