The example of Psiris and the malls
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.