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Huge shopping centre to be built in Nové Mesto

An ambitious new shopping centre in the Bratislava district of Nové Mesto will be open by November 2000, according to real estate developer TriGránit.
The project, to be called the Polus Center, will be erected on Vajnorská Street near Kuchajda Lake, and will offer retail shops, office space, entertainment facilities and residential flats.
According to project manager Todd Cowen, construction will proceed in two phases, with the first phase costing $75 million and the price of the second phase still undetermined.


An artist's rendition of the planned Polus Center, which is scheduled to open in Nové Mesto in 2001.
foto: Courtesy of TriGránit

An ambitious new shopping centre in the Bratislava district of Nové Mesto will be open by November 2000, according to real estate developer TriGránit.

The project, to be called the Polus Center, will be erected on Vajnorská Street near Kuchajda Lake, and will offer retail shops, office space, entertainment facilities and residential flats.

According to project manager Todd Cowen, construction will proceed in two phases, with the first phase costing $75 million and the price of the second phase still undetermined.

The Polus Center development is under the wing of the TriGránit Development Corporation, a local joint venture established in 1997 between the Hungarian-based Polus Investment Company (PIC) and the Canadian real estate firm TrizecHahn Corporation. The Polus Center project will be financed with a syndicated loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD)

According to Karen van der Merve, PIC's director of international inquiries, construction of the Polus Center began in July and will be completed around May, 2001.

The centre will house 25,000 square metres (m2) of office space (17,000 m2 of which will be opened in the first phase in November, 2000), 160 retail shops covering over 13,000 m2, a 14,400 m2 hypermarket (to be operated by the French firm Carrefour), a food court and restaurants and a 14,400 m2 residential tower with around 100 "high-quality" flats.

The Polus Center will also offer an eight-screen cinema multiplex, operated by Ster-Kineker, South Africa's largest cinema operator. Other forms of 'family entertainment' will be included - van der Merve said that negotiations for a bowling alley and a casino were currently underway.

Lorant Koša, leasing manager for PIC, said that 6,600 m2 of the first phase office space had already been reserved by both international and domestic firms. By the end of the year, he added, PIC expects to have 8,000 to 10,000 m2 reserved.

The shopping centre was designed by Architects of Fisher, a Slovak firm, and Adamson and Associates from Canada. The project will employ 2,000 construction workers, 120 designers and 40 consultants.

Loan means confidence

At a Bratislava press conference on September 21, TriGránit representatives said that the EBRD loan, which was signed after the press conference, was "historic" and "the first of its kind in financing."

Cowen said that the loan will have to be repaid within 12 years of the completion of the project, but would give no further details. The first phase would cost $75 million, he said.

Both EBRD and TriGránit representatives said that the loan was an indication of how positively foreign investors now view Slovakia, and added that they hoped this would be the first of many such projects in the country.

On the other hand, Igor Federoňko, the statutory representative of the Bratislava Real Estate Office (BRK), said he questioned the wisdom of launching a project of Polus Center's magnitude given Slovakia's struggling economy.

"This is not a good time to start building such a project," he said. "The economy has not yet improved, their isn't a demand for this at the moment. Maybe in a few years, but now is not the time."

Federoňko added that a similar shopping mall - the Bratislava Shopping Centre - was also set to open in 2001, and argued that two such centres could not be supported by a public with limited spending power.

The Bratislava Shopping Centre will also have a multiplex cinema, a hypermarket, retail stores, entertainment services and office space over a massive 92,970 m2.

Van der Merwe refuted this statement, saying that the market's potential had not yet been tapped. "There is nothing of this kind in Bratislava and [the city] needs a shopping centre. The market here is so big - it's definitely not saturated," she said.

The EBRD's Patrice Muller, for his part, said he understood the risks, but felt that now was the time to proceed. "Obviously nothing is perfect, and further improvement in the investment environment are required," he said. "But the environment has improved and I hope it will [continue] improving sufficiently so that the EBRD will be involved in many more projects in Slovakia."

"The signing of the loan agreement is a symbol of the growing confidence in Slovakia shown by the international finance community," Cowan added.

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