Mediterranean Cosmos, the first «commercial center» as distinct from a shopping mall, is to open in Pylaia, Thessaloniki on October 19, representing a major step forward in the development of big commercial complexes in Greece. Construction work, undertaken by Michaniki, is well advanced but still far from complete. The consortium of Lamda Development and Sierra-Acropol Haragionis insists that it will deliver the complex on time. «We aspire to present a commercial center on a par with those in the European metropolises, able to be competitive,» says CEO of Sonae Sierra, Alvaro Portela, also expressing his satisfaction over the progress of the Portuguese company’s first major investment in Greece. The center will undoubtedly impress visitors from the first sight, making it immediately obvious why first- and second-generation shopping centers have failed in Greece in past decades. The total buildable space is 70,000 square meters and the total leasable area is 45,000 sq.m. The whole project is being built on a 250,000 sq.m. plot owned by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, 110,000 sq.m. of which will have trees planted and walking spaces put in, as the total permissible built area has been exhausted. Mediterranean Cosmos will host five «anchor» stores, those with well-known brands attracting huge numbers of consumers, on 12,500 sq.m., a Grand Masoutis supermarket (2,000 sq.m.), 11 cinema screens and a 16-lane bowling center, both operated by Village Roadshow, taking 8,200 sq.m. The commercial center’s visitors will then be able to roam through another 188 smaller stores covering a total of 19,300 sq.m., as well as 18 food stores and eight café-restaurants. Numerous other services will be provided such as banks, hairdressers, photo shops, cleaners and a nursery. Within the commercial center there will also be a «Greek neighborhood» with tavernas and ouzeri restaurants, a 400-seat open-air theater to host concerts and other events as well as a church – the latter probably a condition set by the Patriarchate to relinquish the plot for 30 years. The 100-million-euro center’s developers have set some ambitious customer-target numbers. In the first year of operation, revenues of Mediterranean Cosmos are expected to come to 200 million euros through an estimated 12 million visits. On an annual basis about 1 million euros will be invested in promotional activity for the center’s advertising, including through a targeted campaign and by hosting various events. Pressures On the other hand, the stunning size of the complex, combined with the other big development schemes in Thessaloniki’s two entry points, can only worry traditional traders in the city at a time when consumers’ incomes are under pressure. «Any fears are justified, but it is confirmed in practice that the operation of shopping centers expands the market, rendering the area a commercial destination for consumers from neighboring cities or even countries,» argues Theodoros Haragionis, head of the Haragionis group. He adds that the Inditex group, whose main chain of stores is Zara, is a case in point; it has eight stores operating in Thessaloniki today, but it is seeking new spaces and will be present in the commercial center with all its brands. There is also the example of cinema multiplexes. «When multiplexes opened in Greece, many jumped to the conclusion that the end of traditional cinemas was near. Instead, tickets have multiplied, old cinemas are being modernized and upgraded, and we can now enjoy new movies almost the whole year,» says Village Roadshow’s CEO, Harry Antonopoulos. «The market has expanded, as there are more screens, and so have the shares of participants in the cinema market,» he adds.