Jacques Sinke is head of the European retail marketing & leasing departments for MAB Development. Inspiring projects in the present portfolio include major retail and mixed use schemes such as MyZeil Frankfurt and Domus Paris. Sinke is a retail and real estate marketing professional with broad ranging commercial management experience. He started his career in retail, before joining MAB in 1995.
What made you decide to develop a shopping center on this particular location?
“The site became available about a decade ago, but the answer really lies in history. For centuries Zeil has been one of the main boulevards in Frankfurt. It developed into a success story during a long and not always easy history. On the very best part of that beautiful boulevard was the central Post Office, which became the home of Deutsche Telekom. When Deutsche Telekom left the heart of one of the best shopping streets in Europe, it was evident that regardless of who would develop it, that site would become a shopping destination. It has always been a vital element in the city.”
What unique features are incorporated in the design?
“The design, by architect Massimiliano Fuksas, won the design competition that we did together with the city of Frankfurt. His approach is rather bold and stunning in many ways. If you want to make an impression then it better be a good and immediate one, and we fell for his approach. There are two main elements: the enormous and very dominant glass roof and the façade it extends towards. And it’s the combination of the two that really stand out. The façade is very spectacular and makes a huge impression on any crowd standing in front of the building. Then, once you are inside, the light produced by the glass roof is enormous and really gives identity to the scheme.”
Can you explain the concept of the ‘theme worlds’?
“One of the key issues, apart from design, is the retail concept itself, the marketing and merchandising mix of the scheme. The position within the Frankfurt city center is crucial. We are trying to reach a combination of a destination in its own right while connecting the elements of high-end and mainstream retail in Frankfurt. The concept also has to bridge all the floors. This is a relatively small development area so we had to go vertical with 8 floors, which is a huge challenge, so we gave a theme to the floors, making them destinations within their own right; connecting within the city and connecting within the project itself. The themed floors are very delicately chosen. On the ground floor, the main floor, we reach out to Zeil and the crowd that is always out front using Zeil as their main shopping area. So we chose for young fashion, an expected connection to Zeil. Going up we created a first floor that goes more to high-end, with big brand names in the fashion world. The second floor has sports and an outdoor character where we have combined a lot of really good brand names, which is one of the major achievements of the project. The third floor has a huge electronics world. Then on the fourth floor, which is our second main floor, we have the combination of all those elements and the Gastro Boulevard – a food court with high-end, specialized restaurants. Plus we have the added extras of the fifth and sixth floors, which all have their entries on the fourth floor, with the fitness centers and the children events center. The fourth floor will also connect to the new hotel and office tower developments on that floor.”
What has the public reaction been?
“Enormous. The building site itself is one of the most visited placed in Germany. By the end of the February opening weekend we’d had almost half a million visitors in three days and the first million within two weeks. This was a huge impact. From day one it has been a success, with about a million or more visitors each month.”
What has been the retailer response to date?
“We have a nice combination of international brands, well known German brands, and a lot of local retailers, which is also important. We really tried to handpick them. We have about a hundred units and most retailers are very positive about their results.”
In February 2009, you obviously did not open your doors during boom times; have customer footfall and financial expectations matched your expectations?
“We always thought it would be possible to get about 10 million visitors in year one, and we might reach around 14 million in the first full year, which is really good. These numbers reflect our success in getting other and new customers into the Frankfurt inner city, with footfall in front of the center dramatically increased. Regarding the financial end, this is a very expensive location, and we have reached our expectations. For the best locations in the center rents are approaching €485/m²/month, which is way above the previous record for Frankfurt. That really tells something also about retailer confidence. Overall we had very ambitious rent levels to reach and we have achieved that.”
On completion, do you expect the rest of the project to have an impact on the long term success of MyZeil?
“There are of course three other main elements to do. The hotel is opening next summer; it will be huge and have a great impact on the center, connecting to MyZeil on both the ground and fourth floor. It will be a powerful neighbor. The Palace that we rebuilt will open early next year with restaurants, events, and some high-end retail. And the office towers are also expected to be ready early next year, so by summer 2010 the whole PalaisQuartier will be ready. All of us are very proud of what we have achieved so far. The mayor of Frankfurt wrote an article specifically pointing out that the project had achieved something that she’d only hoped it might, which is a new urban quality and it is really helping improve the quality of life in the entire city, which is a huge compliment. And that is what we are in business for.”
About MAB Development:
Part of the international Dutch Rabo Real Estate Group, MAB Development is one of the leading European developers with a diverse range of project types covering both commercial properties and mixed-use inner city projects. The company develops sustainable schemes with a balanced mix of living, shopping, working and leisure time. A key role is attributed to retail developments.