By George Psyllides
THE NICOSIA municipality has filed an objection against the expansion of a shopping mall on the outskirts of Nicosia because it would spell the end of businesses in the centre.
“A recent survey of economic activities at the centre of the city showed that the urban centre and its businesses are in the final stage of catastrophe,” said a statement from the municipality released on Thursday. “Granting such a permit would create irreversible effects for the centre of Nicosia.
The objection was submitted during a December 10 hearing before the derogations council.
The Shacolas Group, which owns the Mall of Cyprus in Latsia, said in the summer that it was planning a €25 million expansion to the highly successful shopping centre, to make more space for shops, restaurants and cafes.
The company said some 500 people will work on the project while 500 more will be employed when it becomes operational before Christmas 2015.
The expansion would need the permission of the derogations council, a standard procedure when a project conflicted with an area’s building code.
The current building was also constructed after the council granted an exemption.
Popular with consumers, especially since it offered ample free parking and shelter from the elements throughout the year, the mall had dealt a blow to businesses in the city centre, even before the arrival of the economic crisis.
The recession made things worse, with the erstwhile commercial district outside the walled town now being kept on a respirator in the hope of better days.
The municipality stressed that it favoured private initiative and that it had no axe to grind with the company. It merely related to the need for the state to draft a fixed and comprehensive development and rejuvenation policy.
“Healthy competition provides for a balance between supply and demand. When there are large fluctuations between them in times of crisis, it is a reason for state intervention even in a capitalist system,” the local authority said.
The statement added that thousands of square metres of commercial space were currently available.
Any state intervention must focus on making use of the available space by affording economic incentives to entrepreneurs, it added.
The municipality also suggested that perhaps the matter should not even be under discussion because the initial permit was issued so that the mall could provide services related to the operation of the new hospital next door.
“The hospital has taken its final form years now. What has changed today? Why do workers and visitors need additional services?”
It also argued that one of the conditions of the first permit was that the development “must be considered final” as regards size.
“This was the binding agreement between the applicants and the state for licensing the investment by derogation.”