Sun International begins construction of R500m mall

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Boardwalk mall official development launch, Gqeberha, May 2021. (Supplied)
Boardwalk mall official development launch, Gqeberha, May 2021. (Supplied)
  • Sun International's subsidiary and the developer of Nicolway and Menlyn Maine announced that they will be building the R500 million Boardwalk Mall.
  • The two companies planned the mall in 2019 before the pandemic changed people's shopping habits.
  • They have decided to go ahead with the investment, in spite of how Covid-19 has affected malls.

While some market watchers predict the doom of big malls after Covid-19 introduced more people to online shopping, a subsidiary of Sun International just started building a R500-million shopping centre in Gqeberha, previously known as Port Elizabeth.

Sun International's subsidiary, Emfuleni Resorts and shopping malls developer Flanagan & Gerard Group officially announced the commencement of the Boardwalk Mall's construction on Thursday.

The developers expect to complete and launch the first phase of the mall on 9 December 2021. Completing the second phase is scheduled for 22 September 2022, which will mark the mall's official opening.

The new mall, which will have 23 000m2 of retail space, is an extension of the landmark Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World.

The construction is expected to benefit Gqeberha since R290 million of all goods and services will be procured locally.

The two companies first announced their intentions to build the mall as part of Sun International's plans to extend and upgrade the Boardwalk Precinct.

Covid-19 disruption

But that was before Covid-19 disrupted malls as South Africans knew them. As a result, most of the country's listed landlords have seen retail space vacancy rates rise, especially in big destination malls, since the lockdown began in March 2020.

The SA Property Owners' Association's retail trends report showed that the trading densities and footfall were on the decline and that smaller community shopping centres took market share from bigger malls.

However, Paul Gerard, MD of Flanagan & Gerard, said while the mall would be part of will play in that space of Gqeberha's tourist attraction efforts because of its location in the Boardwalk Precinct, it will primarily play in the space of shopping centres where locals can fulfil their daily retail needs too.

"During this extraordinary time in history, it has become clear that people need convenient retail and enjoyable experiences in safe environments within their communities, close to where they live, work, commute and learn," said Gerard.

Essential services retailers that will be in the mall include Checkers and Checkers Liquorshop, Pick n Pay and its liquor brands, Woolworths, Ackermans, Clicks and Dis-Chem.

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