The ex­am­ple of Psiris and the malls

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

I found very in­ter­est­ing the ex­am­ple of old Nicosia within the walls, es­pe­cially Le­dra-Onasagorou streets, as well as other sim­i­lar roads that have evolved from aban­doned ar­eas in a de­serted cen­tre to one that has be­come at­trac­tive for both young peo­ple and fam­i­lies.

The ini­tial dis­as­trous pol­icy of Nicosia mu­nic­i­pal­ity not to al­low restau­rants, bars, etc., had a neg­a­tive im­pact on the orig­i­nal cen­tre of town, and then, the pol­icy changed and these es­tab­lish­ments were al­lowed, fol­lowed by the re­lax­ation of the rule for pay­ment of vir­tual park­ing lots (that un­for­tu­nately was over­turned and rein­tro­duced). This be­came a phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess and recre­ational cen­tres were cre­ated with small shops, cater­ing from youth to fam­i­lies, mainly in hand­i­craft and crafts, lo­cal del­i­ca­cies and food, and so much more, sur­pris­ing every­body how young peo­ple can con­trib­ute to the re­vi­tal­i­sa­tion of the town’s cen­tre. Old Nicosia taught us that pedes­tri­an­i­sa­tion is the best thing that hap­pened, as there are ta­bles on pave­ments and squares, with a va­ri­ety of restau­rants from high cost (my last ex­pe­ri­ence was at 60 eu­ros per per­son) to cheap fast food places at 5 eu­ros a head. A kind of en­ter­tain­ment for all bud­gets and all ages. A sim­i­lar ef­fort was made in Ayia Napa by the orig­i­nal shops in the har­bour that re­mained ne­glected, and which with the turn of events in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity have been up­graded in re­cent years.

Re­turn­ing to the new kind of shop­ping cen­tres be­tween the new type (for Cyprus) and malls, I find that the ef­fort of the Paphos mu­nic­i­pal­ity to con­vert part of the his­toric cen­tre with small shops, as is the case of Psir­ris in Athens, or even of Plaka, is an imag­i­na­tive idea that I ex­pect will suc­ceed, even if only with the food and drink base in the be­gin­ning. This ef­fort must suc­ceed in or­der to avoid the rep­e­ti­tion of past mis­takes (eg. pay­ing for non-ex­is­tent park­ing spa­ces, re­duc­ing the CTO re­quire­ments for men’s and women’s wc, bath rooms and chang­ing rooms for staff, etc.) that was not only a higher cost on the in­vestor, but there are no es­tab­lish­ments of that size to meet these re­quire­ments. Re­duc­ing the mu­nic­i­pal tax, al­beit for a pe­riod of 2-3 years, to a pe­riod of eco­nomic growth, will be an ad­di­tional in­cen­tive, as is the ef­fort to re­cover the Turk­ish Cypriot store spa­ces that re­main aban­doned.

The com­par­i­son be­tween the Kings Mall and Paphos cen­tre af­ter the year 2017 will be very in­ter­est­ing and I be­lieve that these two devel­op­ment projects will com­ple­ment each other. It would be good if the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Paphos learned from the ex­am­ple of Nicosia and even of Li­mas­sol (Cas­tle area) where it does not seem that the small shops are af­fected by ma­jor shop­ping cen­tres such as My Mall or the other big projects (eg. the fish­ing har­bour, Li­mas­sol Ma­rina, etc.). What will play a very im­por­tant role in the suc­cess of this ef­fort is the qual­ity of ten­ants and their ex­per­tise, while the sup­port by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity with cul­tural and other events must be taken for granted for the suc­cess of the cen­tre. This does not only re­fer to the year 2017, but be­yond that as well, and I be­lieve that will be a key el­e­ment in the suc­cess of both the project and the tourism of Paphos. There are cer­tainly dif­fer­ent le­gal (and other) prob­lems if the owner re­fuses or does not have the fi­nan­cial abil­ity to up­grade or con­vert the unit to pre­ferred uses or be­cause they can­not or do not want to change and whether the long-term ten­ant are mostly el­derly peo­ple. Can this area by law be ex­cluded from the rent rules? Does the town have the abil­ity to of­fer tan­gi­ble and con­tin­u­ous sup­port to the store own­ers? There are park­ing spa­ces and pub­lic trans­port to bring in tourists from the beach ar­eas and the ho­tel strip, but does the mu­nic­i­pal­ity have the in­fra­struc­ture to prop­erly sup­port the new com­mer­cial cen­tre?

As stated in the past, the for­mer mayor of Nicosia, when asked “why does Nicosia not host a car­ni­val” replied that there would be no prob­lem, but it would be bet­ter for the Li­mas­so­lians to do it. Wise words.

Re­view­ing the is­sue from a dis­tance with the aim of con­vert­ing the old com­mer­cial cen­tre into an area sim­i­lar to Psirri-Plaka in Athens, where vis­i­tors can en­joy all types of eater­ies, small gal­leries op­er­ated by young peo­ple, high qual­ity lo­cal prod­ucts, a CTO of­fice and a small mu­seum, but with con­stant price in­spec­tions and a con­trol of the qual­ity of ser­vice, while pro­pos­als by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity for pre­ferred uses (to qual­ify for in­cen­tives and tax re­lax­ation) will help.

At the end of the day, I be­lieve that once the project is im­ple­mented, the dif­fer­ence in rents be­tween the town cen­tre and the mall will not be big, and the dif­fer­ence will be on the size of the units. Look­ing at the his­tory of Nicosia and Li­mas­sol rents, from 10- 15 eu­ros a square me­tre, af­ter the changes these have risen to 20-25, while ex­ist­ing store own­ers ac­quired an en­vi­able level of good­will. It is also clear that out­ly­ing stores will be ad­versely af­fected, but un­for­tu­nately this is un­avoid­able. The prob­lems will re­main, such as plac­ing ta­bles within walk­ways, reg­u­la­tions on the move­ment of ve­hi­cles (in­clud­ing ac­cess to fire and am­bu­lance ser­vices), the undis­ci­plined throw­ing garbage, the lack of bins, the con­ser­va­tion of small squares for events and gen­eral co­op­er­a­tion of all par­tic­i­pants.

We will see how things de­velop.

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