«The creation of an autonomous bureau in Athens is the natural expansion of our international activities, at a time when the growth prospects of the Greek market appear better than ever, especially in the domain of business premises, in which the company specializes,» says John Travers, senior partner of the Cushman & Wakefield real estate consultancy. At a meeting with reporters during his recent visit to Athens for the opening of his company’s local branch, Travers was upbeat about the growth prospects for business real estate in Greece, starting with the development of the first big shopping malls. He also said he was impressed with the capital’s new infrastructure and image. «Given that in Greece there is a ratio of just 20 sq.m. of shopping centers to every 1,000 citizens, when in the European Union the average is about 180 sq.m., one can easily understand the scope for development. Athens today has about 4 million inhabitants with satisfactory income per capita, identical consumer behavior to other Europeans and actually, compared with some countries, they even show higher consumer expenditure, which is encouraging for new development projects in Athens and Thessaloniki.» Travers, whose international firm owns bureaus in 14 countries and cooperates with partners in another 18, says that Athens is as interesting a market as those of Paris and Madrid, and the creation of shopping malls will attract further interest from both Greek and international retailers. The latter, in particular, will have the «protected» environment offered by a shopping center working as a catalyst for a decision to enter a new and little-known market. Already, according to Travers, several international retailers are scanning the Greek market, citing the examples of MediaMarkt, Tie Rack, Footlocker, Pimky and of course Dixons and Fnac. Asked how many shopping centers the local market can support, Cushman & Wakefield executives estimate that four could be constructed in Athens and two in Salonica, from 45,000 to 60,000 sq.m. in size with 200-250 shops, without damaging shops in already established markets (Ermou St, Kolonaki, Kifissia, Stadiou St, Glyfada). But in secondary markets existing problems would be aggravated. Referring to the objectives of the local bureau of Cushman & Wakefield, Travers said that the firm today is involved in the biggest commercial developments, participating in the letting of space at the shopping mall being developed by Lamda Development in Maroussi (and also acting as marketing consultant), in the Mediterranean Cosmos shopping mall in Thessaloniki developed by Lamda Development and Sonae/Harangionis, and also acting as a management consultant to Piraeus Real Estate and the City Links mall, the biggest currently being developed in the center of Athens. In addition, C&W has undertaken the management and letting out of space in the Village Entertainment Park at Rendi. «Our principal aim is to make a profit from the Athens bureau, as in all markets we enter, with the emphasis on retail sales, shopping centers and shops in established markets. Subsequently, we see investments in the local real estate market. For the time being, we wish to grow and secure 30 percent of the consultancy and commercial space management markets and of real estate services to big retailers,» Travers says. The firm is also anticipating the issuing of the tenders by Olympic Properties for the management of Olympic facilities.