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The city-shaping role of shopping centres

Author: Anna Wysocka, Head of Retail Agency, JLL Poland

Retail plays a city-shaping role and has been an integral part of urban life for centuries. This is why resident-centric shopping centres and the revival of high streets are of such crucial importance. Throughout the world, there are numerous examples of retail objects that have managed to change the urban tissue and have had a positive influence on both local communities and new investments developed in a particular area.

Large shopping centres rarely play a city-shaping role in Poland. However, there are always exceptions. The popular Złote Tarasy shopping centre in Warsaw, an excellently located, thriving and multifunctional project, is directly connected to Dworzec Centralny train station. It has managed to fulfill the architectural void and re-create the city centre. I remember how the project evolved, how its plans changed throughout time and how many problems its investors had. The problems ranged from issues related to land ownership to a lack of co-operation from local authorities. After many years, Złote Tarasy managed to assume its city-shaping role and continues to provide an excellent shopping experience for both consumers and tourists.

Investments on such a large scale are multi-phased, complex projects requiring close co-operation between many parties. So architects and investors of large retail complexes have a difficult task to fulfill. Apart from a well-located land plot and secure financing, investors also need to have an idea and good fortune to fully realise the project.

Galeria Malta in Poznań is a good example of an existing project where its owner focused on its city-shaping role from the beginning. Thanks to its unique design and co-operation between numerous parties, this object has managed to re-define a dozen or so hectares of land in the city centre. Furthermore, architects and investors have focused a great deal on land management and arranged the planting of at least 2,000 of trees of different species.

Galeria Malta centre, designed by Pracownia Architektoniczna Ewy i Stanisława Sipińskich, has a unique location and is one of the few Polish shopping centres situated in such a picturesque place – on the banks of Malta Lake. Malta Lake is particularly important for the residents of Poznań and tourists. It is the most popular location for leisure time activities and hosts kayaking and rowing competitions. People go there in order to take a walk, jog, play games or just to relax. Furthermore, Malta offers other attractions through all four seasons: water skiing, rollerblading, ice skating and sledding. This location is also known throughout the world for the Malta Festival Poznań.

Architects successfully maneuvered Galeria Malta into a location of significant importance for Poznań. The shopping centre is linked with Malta Lake by a 130-meter-long promenade, a first for Poznań. Its architecture, which is light and not overpowering, allows its clients to benefit from an abundance of outdoor activities both before and after doing their shopping. In addition, Galeria Malta architecturally benefits from the advantages of its location and thanks to a glass frontage offers a beautiful view onto the lake, and allows visitors to enjoy the beauty of this unique location from the centre's restaurant area.

Furthermore, Galeria Malta is known for numerous events held in the green area in front of the centre such as food truck festivals, open cinemas, family picnics and games arranged in the children's play area. To further illustrate the growing importance of the centre's role in community life, last summer, residents of Poznań were able to attend events such as "Cinema Fridays", "Active Saturdays" and "Green Sundays".

I often come across opinions that shopping centres "kill" high street retail. However, I do not agree with such statements as the co-existence between shopping centres and high streets does not necessarily imply competition. On the contrary, thanks to synergy and complementary offers, such arrangements might prove beneficial. A good example of this is the CEDET (previously Smyk) ,whose commercial space is currently being redeveloped into a modern addition to the retail landscape of Chmielna and Nowy Świat.

Thanks to cleverly fitting a shopping centre into the urban tissue and combining it with the high street, it is possible to create a whole new area within a city, breathing new life into a city centre. The synergy between the high streets and shopping centres encourages a city's development while support from local authorities influences the creation of attractive urban and retail locations.

Each location has its own history. In Poland, apart from the previously mentioned projects, we have numerous excellent shopping centres, dovetailing with their surrounding areas, where both architects and investors have adjusted projects' concepts to their particular locations and developed these objects according to their surroundings and history. Examples of such retail objects that have changed the urban tissue and positively influenced local communities include Manufaktura in Łódź which seamlessly links retail with culture and entertainment. In 2017, the list of city-shaping projects will grow longer thanks to Forum Gdańsk and Galeria Północna (currently under development in the Białołęka district of Warsaw).

Author: Anna Wysocka, Head of Retail Agency, JLL Poland