The new mall in Larnaca will create hundreds of jobs and increased tax revenues for the state, said President Nicos Anastasiades as he laid the foundation stone of the project on Monday morning.
He said the new Larnaca Metropolis mall would become “a new destination for consumers and visitors, not only from Larnaca, but from across Cyprus”.
Metropolis Mall, located near Larnaca general hospital, is expected to start operating by the end of 2020.
“Our primary goal in restarting the economy was to make our country a place which attracts quality investment,” he added.
But the mall has sparked sharp criticism from shop owners in Larnaca and the small shopkeeper’s organisation Povek.
In a written statement on Saturday, the shopkeepers condemned Anastasiades for attending Monday’s ceremony, saying the shopping centre will harm the businesses in Larnaca’s old town.
The president said on Monday however that hundreds of new jobs would be created within the mall and the industry which services them.
Malls traditionally attract major foreign companies which often displace smaller local businesses on the high street. In turn, however, tech titans such as Amazon have also decimated malls and the remaining high streets in many countries. Malls in America reached their peak popularity in the 1990s, just before the tech boom and mass online shopping. Many have now become hollow shells.
Carl Icahn, a major American businessman and investor, bet in November many American malls will be forced to turn off the lights for good. In October, Alliance Bernstein said as many as 370 malls in America are at risk.
Debenhams in the UK announced in April that it plans to close up to 50 department stores.
But this trend doesn’t seem to be happening in Cyprus where online shopping remains at relatively low levels and the malls remain packed.
The renovation and revival of old town centres in Nicosia and Limassol, meanwhile, has brought crowds back in these areas but mostly for their bars, restaurants and cafes rather than the old-style small family run shops.