MaltaToday | 24 August 2008

NEWS | Sunday, 24 August 2008

Smart City poised to become Malta’s largest shopping centre

Smart City is set to become Malta’s biggest shopping centre, occupying 21,620 square metres of retail space.
This would make Smart City’s retail component bigger than Sliema’s 20,078 square metres of shops, restaurants and other outlets. Valletta, which has 17,118 square metres of retail space, will be relegated to third place. Yet the Environment Impact Study for the project already casts doubts on whether sufficient demand exists for the project’s retail component.
“The scale of the oversupply suggests that significant displacement in retail spend from other areas would be required to sustain the level of retail planned.”
The creation of a new retail outlet goes against current MEPA policies, which seek to concentrate retail development in existing centres to reduce the need to travel by car for shopping trips. According to the Structure Plan Review Retail Topic Paper, shopping malls outside existing centres should not draw trade away from existing cores.
“Malta is well served with town and village centres and it is considered inappropriate to foster the development of major freestanding shopping centres outside these locations “
The EIS says only 8,000 square metres of retail space is required to cater for the needs of the city’s workers and resident population. A further 4,000 square metres of retail will cater for demand from the immediate neighbouring areas like Kalkara and Xghajra.
The remaining 8,000 square metres of so-called “tertiary retail” – taking the form of large shopping malls – can only be supported by demand from the rest of the island. But this “could displace retail spending from primary and secondary centres in surrounding districts,” the study states.
The study even suggests that shopping malls will only be developed if other retail developments like Tigné Point and Manoel Island fail to materialise or if there is “a national increase in spending power.” The study does not say what will happen to the 8,000 square metres presently allocated for “tertiary retail”, if this is not deemed feasible by the developers.

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