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The Warsaw Voice » Real Estate » October 29, 2010
MAPIC 2010
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A Tasty Morsel in Rzeszów
October 29, 2010   
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Marta Półtorak, the chairman of the board of the Develop Investment company, the investor behind the Millenium Hall shopping mall in Rzeszów, talks to The Warsaw Voice.

What prompted you to invest in a shopping mall? Is Develop Investment a new player in this segment?
Rzeszów is a tasty morsel for developers on the market for commercial real estate. It is a rapidly growing city and the heart of southeastern Poland when it comes to administration, industry, shopping, services, culture and academic life. But the local market should not be viewed solely from the angle of the city itself. The Podkarpacie region is home to around 2 million potential buyers and at the same time, it lacks a modern shopping mall of a regional character. The proximity of Ukraine plays a part as well, as Rzeszów is a shopping destination for a large group of Ukrainian citizens who seek stores with brands absent from the Ukrainian market. Difficulties in cross-border traffic are a hindrance for now, but given the upcoming Euro 2012 soccer championships and the promise of open borders, Ukraine presents huge opportunities.

Interestingly enough, the short distance to Ukraine is one of the main reasons that the most exclusive brands want to enter Rzeszów. They expect the location will allow them to attract a lot of Ukrainian shoppers who travel all the way to Cracow and other places.

Rzeszów has also major tourist potential. With the Bieszczady Mountains and Solina Reservoir located not far away, the city is visited by thousands of tourists in summer. The beauty of the region has captivated visitors from Germany who like to buy land for recreation there. A recent trend that increases the buying potential of Rzeszów is medical tourism. Airlines at the international airport of Rzeszów operate convenient flights to several cities in Britain. British citizens quickly discovered that Poland offered professional, but attractively priced medical services and they are now frequent customers at clinics in the Podkarpacie region.

The above arguments, and more, show that Rzeszów is ready for a large shopping mall, while Develop Investment, a company originating from the Marma Polskie Folie group which has almost two decades of business experience, knows how to carry out a project like this.

Millenium Hall is a large project of a regional character. What is the most important thing when a project like this is being developed? What does it take to succeed?
I am confident the Millenium Hall will be a true gem of Rzeszów, a landmark and the cultural and commercial center of the city. Having overcome the main obstacles the project encountered, we have been able to afford changes such as rearranging some of the mall’s functions so as to make the Millenium Hall even more attractive to future customers. Apart from the retail area, designed to provide the local population with a comprehensive and unique selection of stores, we have made sure to include an attractive selection of services and entertainment facilities. Thanks to an innovative project designed for young people, spending time at the mall will provide an educational and community value. A major advantage is that visitors to the mall will get to interact with art, integrated with other functions of the Millenium Hall.

What are your plans regarding the tenant mix?
Before the construction of the Millenium Hall was put on hold, the lease of retail space in the mall was going great with clients interested in 80 percent at that stage. Almost all companies that signed lease contracts beforehand were interested in opening stores at the Millenium Hall.

The market situation has changed a little in the meantime and, for example, furniture companies do not enter shopping malls in downtown areas anymore and opt for other locations instead. Some companies that signed contracts with us are now out of business or doing much worse than just two or three years ago. This gap can be easily filled, however, as we have been approached by new brands keen to rent space at the Millenium Mall. We have also been in talks with companies which have not come to the Polish market yet and want to start their expansion in Poland from Rzeszów. Many sought-after brands that have been absent from Podkarpacie will open their first stores in the region at our mall.

In developing the project, your company is paying a great deal of attention to detail. From the point of view of future visitors, what will make the Millenium Hall stand out among other malls?
A modern, multi-functional shopping mall like the Millenium Hall is where huge groups of people meet. It thus has to meet such fundamental criteria as functionality, convenient location in harmony with the rest of the city, safety and an interesting selection of stores and other facilities. However, in order to become truly popular with visitors, it needs to have a unique ambiance and be pleasing to the eye. We thus aim to build a very special shopping mall which stands out for its functionality and stores on the one hand and interiors which bring out the building’s individual character and personality on the other.

Millenium Hall has quite a long and complicated history. When do you expect the happy ending—the opening—to take place?
The construction is over 90 percent complete and going according to plan. Rzeszów will gain a modern, sixth-generation shopping mall in October 2011.
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