Shopping mall aims to avoid fate of 'Ghost Mall'

Updated: 2013-07-24 10:54

By Kelly Chung Dawson in New York (China Daily)

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 Shopping mall aims to avoid fate of 'Ghost Mall'

An artistic rendering Dongguan International Trade Center designed by the American firm 5+design. Provided to China Daily

The Gold Brick Award-winning US architectural design firm 5+design will build a new mixed-use development in Dongguan.

The Dongguan International Trade Center (DITC) will feature retail stores, restaurants, bars, office developments and hotel space, in a central location that sits at the intersection of several public transport lines.

5+design has close to 10 other projects in development in China, and the DITC fits in the firm's focus on mixed-use development design, a trend that has been growing in China over the last few years.

"There's a new generation in China that likes the convenience of great shops and dining experiences near where they live," said Michael Ellis, 5+design's managing partner. "You see this in the US too, with young people moving to downtown Los Angeles for the same reasons. It's a worldwide trend, but new development is happening so quickly and at a large-enough scale in China that it allows us to operate freely there."

Mixed-use retail and business spaces are particularly attractive to developers in areas with high density and high-land value, Ellis noted. The more valuable a piece of land is, the more there is a need to squeeze various uses out of a vertically-oriented development. The challenge in such a space is to seamlessly integrate the various buildings in such a way that still allows each part to maintain an individual identity, he said. That type of design also requires a freedom of creativity that can be inspiring, he said.

"There's so much development going on in Asia, that there are more opportunities for US firms to explore mixed-use typologies in design," he said. People in Asia are more comfortable with high-density urban centers and developments, he said.

The California-based firm, which is also working on an extension of Beijing's China World Trade Center, is focused on avoiding the fate of South China Mall, also known as the "Ghost Mall." That shopping center was poorly conceived and executed, and has struggled to fill retail spaces.

To steer clear of that development's mistakes, 5+design hopes to attract a broad spectrum of retail tenants, with ample space for mid-range affordable brands. China's middle class is an increasingly important market for retail. DITC's central location and steady traffic from office and hotel buildings will also help the development, Ellis said.

DITC will also feature an underground "market hall" of booths or stands for individual retailers to showcase their goods. This market format is very popular in China, as evidenced by Beijing's Silk Market and other shopping markets around the country.

Part of the development is expected to be completed in 2015, and the entire project will likely take five or six years to complete, Ellis said. Other firms also working on the project include the Shenzhen-based HSA (Huasen) design firm and the California-based SWA, which is doing landscaping design for the project.

The developer of the project is Dongguan Minying Real Estate Development Co Ltd, according to the firm 5+design. The company was established for this project, and represents a consortium of leading businesses in the city.

(China Daily USA 07/24/2013 page2)