Building big does not necessarily bring in the dollars.
(Kuala Lumpur =Koreanpress) by Ramani Rathir =China made a name in the architectural field with its structures built for the Beijing Olympics. Of course, historically it has the Great Wall of China. But it has another building constructed fairly recently and which is an absolute disaster and has the similar sounding name of “The Great Mall of China.’
It wascompleted in 2005 and boasted of a five-million-square-foot space. This is twice the size of its namesake, ‘The Mall of America,’ with one big difference. While its American counterpart is busy with shoppers, the Mall of China stands almost completely empty today. A situation which it carried forward from its opening day, some eight years ago.
Looking like it had just landed from the Las Vegas strip, it also comes with a giant sphinx, canals to carry gondolas and a replica of the Arc de Triomphe, without any triumph whatsoever!
From day one, the Mall has had an occupancy rate of just 1 per cent. It was supposed to have been flooded with about 100,000 shoppers a day. There are shoppers, but these gravitate to McDonalds and the IMAX cinema, both of which are located on the fringes of the Mall. It is rare for someone to venture inside.
Walking through it is like walking through a graveyard of concrete and glass. The Great Mall of China still remains open, but with just a tenet or two. What a monumental waste of money, labour and materials.
With China’s frenzied progress, history can repeat itself. Numerous other buildings are coming up elsewhere in China. The hurried pace, sometimes leaves no time for careful planning. And another Mall of China can spring up. It does not have to be a mall but just about any other form of building.
When Alex Hu, the chief financier built the Great Mall, he forgot or was not aware of one of property’s main tenets – Location, Location and Location. You need the right location to draw shoppers, cinema goers, entertainment seekers, the foodies and pub crawlers.
Instead Hu, maybe out of a false sense of home-boy pride, built the Mall in the city of Dongguan. This was more of a dormitory town for the city’s industrial workers. Many of who had come here to find work and save all their earnings before going back home. They were not about to spend on cosmetics by Lancôme or designer clothes of Calvin Kline. Luxury shopping was not just their cup of tea.
You also have to make it easy for people to get there. To do so, shoppers by bus or car, have to navigate a torturous route that turns and twists before delivering them at the Mall after a more than two hours at the car park. Then another fifteen minutes of walking to reach the Mall entrance. Who would want to shop after that?
Hu had Ye Ji Ning as the head of his New South China Mall investment team. He predicted a jump to an 80 per cent occupancy rate within a year. But he must have read his crystal ball wrong for the future is still murky.
It would have been a great place if things had gone right. The canals and gondoliers would evoke a romantic air. Instead they are today green watery lanes of thick algae or some other unknown entity.
Perhaps the millions spent on the Mall could have been used to improve the lives of Dongguan’s poor. Many of who are struggling to stay alive, unable to feed themselves or their families. Perhaps some sort of social programme could have been drawn up where after the initial handouts, these poor could participate in programmes that would give them a steady income and take them off the hardcore listing. abc@Koreanpress.net