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Malmö braces for Scandinavia's largest shopping mall

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Malmö braces for Scandinavia's largest shopping mall
10:40 CEST+02:00
A mall billed as one of Europe’s most spectacular shopping centres is under construction in Malmö, but questions remain as to whether the city can handle the massive expansion in retail space, The Local's Karen Holst discovers.

Coined as Europe’s most spectacular and Scandinavia’s largest shopping centre, the southern based mega-mall Emporia promises to deliver a shopping experience well-beyond the normal.

Following a delay, Emporia is now slated to open October 2012 rather than 2011.

The gigantic three-story shopping centre is more than three times the size of neighbouring Malmö Arena and occupies a total of 93,000 square metres.

Emporia’s developers set their focus on creating more of a shopping sanctuary, or as they say a space to rejuvenate, gather inspiration, and seek refuge from the fast-paced world while shopping, eating and hanging out, according to the super- mall’s sole developers Steen & Ström, a Scandinavian company that owns, operates and develops shopping centres throughout Scandinavia.

"The architecture combined with the service level is unique in Scandinavia and even to some extent in Europe. Add to that five art projects incorporated in the building, a roof top park and a suberb location in terms of public transportation," says Jonatan Carlring, Emporia’s Development Manager from Steen & Ström.

The birth of Emporia began about five years ago with the land purchase in 2006. It has since evolved from a vast, open field and soon into Scandinavia’s largest shopping mall with the aim of offering an unmatched shopping, dining and entertainment experience.

Visitors will discover at least 200 stores, more than 20 restaurants and cafes, a rooftop park, two indoor playgrounds, several family rooms and plenty of lounge areas.

The design by itself is a remarkable feat.

The glamorous exterior flaunts two stunning and colourful main entrances made entirely of curved glass. One grand entrance is inspired by the semi-precious Amber stone and will be orange glass, the other influenced by the near-by sea and offering a mix of blues.

“It’s a very special entrance because the glass is double curved which means each piece is individually designed and cut,” explains Carlring.

The roof struts another spectacular yet sustainable environment that will be converted entirely into green space, about the size of four football fields.

Made from a low-maintenance material called sedum, the green roof will help alleviate flooding, reduce noise, add a layer of thermal insulation and possibly even help compensate for the loss of green surface by providing an environment to re-inhabit for wildlife, such as birds, plants and insects.

“It will be a kind of park on the top of the building with walkways and viewpoints of both Denmark and Malmö,” Carlring describes.

The inside world of Emporia unfolds into three levels, composed of shopping corridors and anchored by six distinct, open squares taken from the piazza concept of Rome’s bustling streets.

Each square offers a separate lounging experience and a unique, open area where elevators and escalators can be used when traversing the mall.

For example, the Sea Square is naturally connected to the Sea Entrance and it is designed to be a completely open sky dome that reaches up to the top level.

“There also will be a waterfall in the Sea Square that runs the height of the building on each side of the lift and drops into a small pool,” Carlring adds.

Flower Square boasts a spiral staircase, jungle vines, scores of flowers and green glass to evoke a garden oasis.

The remaining squares take on colour identities, such as Amber Square, Pink Square and Purple Square.

Shoppers looking to snap open their wallets will meet some of the usual and expected chain stores such as H&M, Lindex, Kappahl, GinaTricot and Stadium, to name a few, as well as smaller, more exclusive brands.

“There will be retail surprises,” Carlring adds. “But nothing we can communicate just yet.”

Other major firms signed on thus far include ICA, Willy’s, JC, Intersport and Clas Ohlson to name a few. Two of the most recent confirmed clothing chains are G Star and The Sequal with several additional major tenants in the final stages of negotiations.

With only between 65 and 70 percent of the retail space leased and about 18 months to go before opening, Carlring isn’t worried.

“We are exactly where we expected to be at this point and fully expect to reach full capacity at the time of our opening,” he affirms.

To satisfy shoppers’ hunger-inducing credit-card frenzy, Emporia houses about 20 restaurants and cafes with more than 3,500 square metres dedicated to eating.

Food offerings range from simple, fast-food stops to fine dining atmospheres and have the capacity to serve more than 4,000 meals per day. Some of the restaurants will remain open longer than the shops to allow visitors a leisurely evening meal.

With a mind toward service, Carlring says the niceties Emporia offers will help separate it from other area shopping malls. This includes attractive perks such as valet parking, private lockers, and “shopping carts similar to those found in airports.”

The mega-mall also includes a colorful parking garage with 3,000 spots and will be easily accessible from the community by well-lit bicycle routes.

Emporia is housed in Hyllie, an emerging district just southeast of Malmö that promises to extend the feel of the city’s reach as well as significantly alter the local flatland skyline.

Emporia is part of the area’s new urban development plans, which is second only to Västra Hamnen in terms of sheer size and expenditure.

The plans include Malmö Arena, Emporia and a new train station as well as at least 7,000 new homes, 7,000 new jobs, hotels and offices.

“Hyllie is fast becoming a new part of Malmö and in the future it will be a well-developed living centre. With the infrastructure and new train station, it’s a good area to develop and perfect for our investment,” Carlring says.

The vast shopping mall is strategically constructed next to the City Tunnel’s new Hyllie Station, hoping to capitalize on the 37 million people who travel between Copenhagen and Malmö annually.

It is an easy 6-minute ride from Malmö Central Station, 12-minutes from Copenhagen’s Kastrup airport and 27 minutes from downtown Copenhagen.

Although Carlring is optimistic about the success of Emporia, the huge mall is within less than eight kilometres of at least seven other major shopping centres in the Malmö city area alone.

In addition, recent evaluations from last year demonstrate a significant drop in sales across Malmö’s retail shopping venues despite the economy’s upswing.

The city’s newest shopping centre, Entré, opened in 2009 and offers a bowling alley, fitness centre and cinema, and has been struck by three different bankruptcies in its short span. At least a dozen retail spaces sit empty at any given time, according to reports at the beginning of the year.

But people in Malmö’s retail business don’t seem concerned and agree with Carlring’s positive outlook toward the future by embarking on pricey projects.

Three major shopping centres, Mobilia, Triangeln and Caroli City, are currently undergoing expansion and renovation projects although each hosts several vacant retail spaces.

Market area manager for Mobilia, Anders Murmark, told Sydsvenskan, south Sweden’s daily newspaper, that analysts estimate every citizen in the area spends an average 50,000 kronor (about $8,000) a year, only half of which goes toward the staples of living such as groceries.

If Malmö’s population continues to rise at the expected 4,000-5,000 new inhabitants a year, Murmark claims that increase will amount to several billion kronor available in retail funds.

And Carlring’s projections aren’t conservative either.

“We don’t talk about the area’s purchasing power but we do estimate about 9 million customers a year with the first year’s turnover at about 2.5 billion kronor,” Carlring says.

As Emporia enters its final stages of construction, it has gained global attention of all those in the shopping centre business with a total investment estimated at about 4 billion kronor.

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