Commercial development attracts major foreign firms

The combination of retailing and real estate has created an explosive market in Athens, attracting local and foreign capital at an amazing rate. Some of the strongest companies globally in the sector of commercial property development are carefully monitoring developments here, awaiting the best opportunities, while others have created alliances with Greek companies, according to international consultancy firm and estate agency CB Richard Ellis. The most recent examples of the investment frenzy since the start of the year are the sale of 50 percent of The Mall Athens to HSBC, the purchase of a 42,000-square-meter plot of REDS by McArthurGlen in Spata, where a shopping center with famous clothing brands is to be developed, and the rumored construction of office and commercial buildings of 66,000 sq.m. in Faliron, by an alliance between J&P Development and Britain’s Miller. In the coming months, the complex of commercial and office space being constructed by Babis Vovos in Faliron is to start operation. Besides the very successful Ikea (set to open a new store on Kifissias Avenue soon), and the Kotsovolos superstore, the Hellenikon commercial park will also host an outlet of French DIY company Leroy Merlin, as well as a new Factory Outlet. Furthermore, the first two of the three tenders completed by Olympic Properties have added a couple of new shopping centers to the Athens market. The first is on Kifissias Avenue, very close to The Mall, and will be developed by Lamda Development and the second is in Galatsi, created by Sierra-Haragionis. Two more shopping centers are on the cards, one promoted by French company LSGIE at a plot held by REDS in Kantza, eastern Attica, and another to open at 180 Piraeus Street. The simultaneous development of so many shopping centers, which for the majority come with entertainment activities such as cinema multiplexes, has begun to worry local real estate market professionals, who realize that the market can become easily saturated. This concerns both companies already present in Greece and those ready to enter the domestic market. The latter category includes many French firms, since after the successful entry of FNAC, they view the Greek market much more positively. Groupe Bertrand, Alain Weiz, Linvosges, Physiomins International, Lady Fitness, Cyrillus and Vertbaudet are watching the local market closely. Other companies ready to enter the Greek market are Tesco, Debenhams, H&M, Vasco Santos and Parfois, while Tengelmann is already present through its Plus supermarket chain. Zara, Sephora, Hondos and Starbucks are rapidly expanding their networks.