Nordicum - Real Estate Annual Finland 2014 - Page 47

THE ANGLE By Markus Laine The writer is Director, Real Estate Transactions and Investors of SRV Group Plc Shopping Centres keep evolving Shopping centres have proven to be surprisingly resistant to trying times. While the image of the shopping centre as “the citizens’ living room” or “meeting place for all” sometimes links with booming economy, that image doesn’t ring quite true. Even when the economy is not doing so great, people still want to go to shopping centres – and, in some cases, the tougher the times get, the more people want to go there. I n many regards, the shopping centre is simply the place to be: a natural setting for spending some time and money. There is also the historical continuation: in place of market squares, where everybody would go for purposes as much commercial as social, we have shopping centres – modern market places – where even the rain can’t spoil the day. Finding the optimal slot in the urban structure remains a high priority for players in the field. Helsinki and its surrounding municipalities earn special consideration in this regard, since 30 % of Finnish shopping centres are located in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area – with sales equalling 49 % of the whole shopping centre market in Finland. The well-know challenge here involves finding sufficient space to launch new shopping centres, but it can be done, as is the case with SRV’s REDI Shopping Centre in Kalasatama. The curious thing about the shopping centres located in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area is that they are more spread out, removed from the core city structure, than their counterparts elsewhere in Finland. REDI, however, will definitely boost urban cohesion, since it is directly integrated into the Helsinki core centre – there is even a convenient metro connection inside the shopping centre. SRV has a lot of experience in creating urban logistical hubs, among them the shopping centre Kamppi which has received international praise for its functionality. Kamppi is also a good example of a shopping centre that is highly attractive to the investors as well; in December 2013 it was announced that Cornerstone Real Estate Advisers’ Nordic Retail Fund has sold 50 % of Kamppi to Allianz Real Estate, making it the year’s single biggest real estate deal in Finland. However, with accessibility from three vertical levels, REDI will be even more functional. SRV has also more recent references: in the fall 2013, SRV opened 48,000 square metre Pearl Plaza Shopping Centre in St. Petersburg and started construction on the Okhta Mall (75,000 sq m). The demand for shopping centres in Helsinki is great, as more and more people flock to the metropolis. At the same time, players of the sector have to think long and hard about the demographics: who will form the consumer base in the 2020s, for example? The vision for REDI is to engage the youthful minded city dwellers, and take into consideration the various wishes of many different age groups. One interesting age group is formed by the senior citizens, as the baby boomers are now retiring in record numbers. In connection to REDI, there will be convenient residential services for all age groups as well as a social and health centre among other services which will make everyday life even more convenient. Nordicum 45