Quite a few property development projects comprising a retail function never got beyond the ‘dream’ phase – and even if completed, success has come in the dreams of the investors only. Let us look at some drifting projects now.
Dream Island planned to be built underground
A mini Las Vegas has been planned to be built by Álomsziget Kft. on the Hajógyári Island for almost 10 years now. According to year 2006 data the project totalling 400 billion forints would have covered an area near 350 thousand sq m. Plans included hotels, a casino, a congress centre, and 5,500 parking spaces. The yacht harbour would have been enlarged to accommodate 300 ships, and two theatres were planned too, as well as a shipyard museum.
In the autumn of 2006 an unsuccessful referendum was held on the District Regulation Plan (DRP), so the project got the green light. As the much disputed DRP stipulates that the area can be built up to a height not exceeding the canopy level, therefore the congress centre and the casino for example were planned to be built underground. But the project never started, as archaeological excavations were commenced in 2006. A preliminary building permit was issued for the project in 2009, and an American architect prepared the visualization plans. It was declared a priority investment in 2009, which was revoked in 2010. In addition, Central European casino projects have been under an eclipse ever since, therefore we would not bet on it being realized between 2013 and 2015.
One of the three occupants of the outlet city next to Budaörs was developed by the Belgian company Group GL. GL Outlet opened in December 2004, providing over 120 internationally known brands at low prices. Premier Outlets was opened simultaneously within a stone’s throw, yet no one thought at the time that it would become the doom of GL. However, in a year and a half, around 2006, the menace was already present; GL was falling behind Premier. On top of it all, its tenants were unable to pay the rents due to their low sales turnover, and their cumulated debts neared 300 million forints. Premier had already started phase two by that time.
French company Ségécé, a real heavy bomber on the market of commercial properties, came in November 2007 as a saviour. GL Outlet picked up strength, and the reconstruction of the centre was completed in the autumn of 2008. But then came the dampener, as in October 2009 it was revealed that GL was included in the list of debtors at the Hungarian Tax and Financial Control Administration, and by the end of 2010 the vultures were already circling over the once promising centre, and the shops were closed.
M1 Outlet Center
The third occupant of the outlet city was M1 Outlet Center, handed over in early 2008. Investors called it a plaza-like outlet; according to the official version it combined the cheapness of an outlet with the comfort of a shopping centre. That is, the centre was built with a closed superstructure, quasi as a plaza, waiting for customers in winter and summer alike.
But then came the dampener; less than a year later the shops were already closing, and the winding-up of the company started in May 2009. Experts named numerous reasons – but only afterwards, of course. The timing of handover was bad, to say the least, since it was just then that the domestic retail turnover dropped. On the other hand, Premier had established its fire-trenches by that time and was shooting from the hip, winning nearly all of the brands. Not even the ‘plaza-like outlet’ concept was an adequately efficient counterstroke.
Nearly all lots have been built up in Budaörs already, but there was still one left along motorways M1/M7. The foundation stone of Solaris City, developed by Whitestone Investment Consulting, was laid here in the summer of 2008. 22 thousand sq m of office and 10 thousand sq m of retail space was planned to be developed for about 50 million euros within the multifunctional project referred to as ‘the new downtown of Budaörs’, covering 17 hectares. Anyhow, the project was struck by the crisis, and several office developments had been launched in the city in the meantime too, although in 2008 it probably seemed like there was a demand on the office market and that rents lower than those in Budapest could be attractive.
This article was publicated in the 2010/11 Retail Yearbook, in the professional Hungarian retail market issue.
The yearbook is both in English and Hungarian.