King Sturge to advise on new shopping center in Albanian capital (AL)

King Sturge has been appointed to provide management set-up advice on a major new shopping center on the outskirts of Tirana, the Albanian capital, which will help to offset a huge imbalance in the supply of retail space in the area.

The new €48-million scheme will total 70,000 m² (gross built area including car parking) and is called Tirana East Gate shopping center. It has been awarded a €24-m long-term debt facility by the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD), following a feasibility study undertaken by King Sturge's Croatia office on behalf of EBRD.

Tirana East Gate will be developed by a special purpose vehicle wholly owned by Albanian development and investment company Mane TCI Sh.p.k, which is an affiliate of the Balkan Finance Investment Group (Balfin). Featuring around 103 tenants, including three anchor stores, and 1,643 parking spaces, it is due to open in December 2010. Located 5 km south of Tirana in an area also earmarked for residential and leisure, access to the scheme will be significantly improved by a new ring road, which will also be part funded by EBRD.

King Sturge has also been appointed by the same developer to provide a property management services review of its existing 46,000 m² (gross built area including car parking) QTU Tirana mall in the city center which opened in 2005. This is currently the only major successful shopping center serving the city rather than specific districts.

John Michell, Head of Shopping Center Management at King Sturge, comments: "The Albanian property market has changed significantly over the last couple of years from an undeveloped Eastern European country with no international product to one where new schemes are being built to global standards. This transformation has mainly been driven by the acquisition of local banks by international institutions and the restructuring of the land register system, both of which have made development finance more readily available.

"Albania now has an opportunity to turn its retail market around. Unlike central and southern European cities, Tirana has no pedestrianized shopping streets, while branded goods have typically entered the country via immigrants living abroad and running small businesses. The capital needs an out-of-town shopping mall to provide retailers with larger format stores and a greater variety and number of units.

"Even in the current international downturn, we expect countries like Albania to perform much better than other Eastern European countries due to the current low level of development."

Source: Dee Cornes

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