Martin Breeden, development director of intu answers the question on everyone's lips, "Why Spain?"
A good time to invest
When intu decided to buy Parque Principado in Oviedo, northern Spain, at the end of 2013, the market questioned if we’d lost our marbles. Our decision to venture into sunnier climes was questioned so often that we commissioned some research with our advisors Cushman & Wakefield entitled “Why Spain?”.
Relatively quickly we found increasing numbers of investors following our path. Improving GDP, lowering unemployment and a booming tourism sector attracted others, and retail investment in the country rose a staggering 155% in 2014 to its highest since 2008. This included major deals such as the sale of Islazul in Madrid by the Joint Venture of Ivanhoe Cambridge and Grupo Lar and Anec blau in Barcelona by Grosvenor International Property Trust*.
In 2016, Deutsche Bank’s €495m purchase of Diagonal Mar shopping centre in Barcelona was only part of a €3,500m total investment in shopping centres in the year, 59.1% higher than in 2015 and the highest on record**. I guess that answers the question, “Why Spain?”
Reign in Spain
Our journey into Spain didn’t stop there. Since the acquisition of intu Austrias we snapped up the award-winning Puerto Venecia shopping resort in Zaragoza followed by Madrid Xanadú earlier this year. We’ve also acquired options on four fantastically located development sites in Málaga, Valencia, Vigo and Palma.
So what makes these Spanish shopping resorts so great? Well the answer lies in experience. It helps that Spain has more sunshine hours than the UK, however, creating a space where people really want to spend their free time was the remit of the Spanish team. Peurto Venecia which opened in 2012 won World’s Best Shopping Centre at Mapic 2013 and makes its mark by truly offering “something for the whole family” in a stunning lakeside environment which as well as being beautiful is environmentally friendly and is accredited LEED Gold.
The 206,000 sq m centre is built around a 7,500 sq m lake with a 120m zip line above and boasts 203 retail units, more cafes and restaurants than you can shake a stick at, indoor and outdoor climbing, ice skating in the winter, a 10-screen cinema, go karting, indoor family entertainment centre and an on-site retail park including an IKEA and Decathlon (to name just a few!). It provides something for everyone. But that’s not all - the point is that it’s a great place to spend time. When I first visited, it was pointed out to me how slowly people were walking, not something you usually see at a shopping centre; people enjoy spending time there, they stay a little longer and possibly spend a little more.
Since our acquisition of Puerto Venecia we’ve continued to invest in adding outdoor terraces to the restaurants and recently a new supermarket, bowling alley and trampolining, and we are refurbishing the food court (to be called Yantaria meaning Eatery in the local dialect).
At Xanadú, our most recent acquisition, we have set our sights high and as well as taking over the running of the indoor ski slope, will be radically enhancing the already popular dining experience and adding an aquarium and Nickelodeon land. And that’s all just for starters.
A resort like no other
We have big plans for Spain. Our “shopping resort” in Málaga, intu Costa del Sol, will take everything we have learned so far to a whole new level with leisure attractions including open-air skiing, theme park attractions, an aquarium, along with a hotel, conference centre and creative retail units. There’s already been widespread interest from both Spanish and international operators who want to be a part of this redefined shopping experience.
So watch this space as the intu brand firmly establishes itself at the heart of Spanish shopping and leisure experiences now and in the future.
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Investing in intu Asturias
Bringing together top fashion brands, technology and homeware, with a wide dining and leisure offer complete with 12-screen cinema, intu Asturias attracts families from across the northern Spain. A year after the rebrand, intu is not standing still and has continued to invest in keeping the centre at its best. This year the lower mall (previously closed), was completely renovated to transform 6,000 sqm and add 16 new retail units, including a flag ship Mas y Mas supermarket and 12 new food and beverage units.
In addition, a full refurbishment of the dining area is underway and due to open later this year.