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Istanbul's Grand Bazaar to be reborn with 140 million-lira investment

ISTANBUL - Radikal | 10/18/2010 12:00:00 AM | SEVGİ SAYAR BAŞARAN

Prominent Turkish brands are competing to open stores in the Grand Bazaar, the historic shopping complex in Istanbul, which is ready to be revitalized with a 140 million-Turkish Lira investment.

Prominent Turkish brands are competing to open stores in the Grand Bazaar, the historic shopping complex in Istanbul, which is to be reborn with a 140 million Turkish Liras investment.

The shops, city municipality and the bazaar management intend to boost the trade in the 550-year-old Ottoman facility.

The Grand Bazaar, or Covered Bazaar, is today one of the most important tourist attractions in the city, with nearly 3,600 shops selling gold and souvenirs.

The bazaar hosts about 500,000 visitors every day.

The Fatih Municipality is starting the renewal with a study to be finished by the end of November. As soon as the Council of Monuments, the official body responsible for reconstruction works on the country’s historic heritage sites, approves the plan, the actual work will start, according to the management of the bazaar.

The bazaar will gain a totally modern identity, Hasan Fırat, the head of the Grand Bazaar Traders’ Association, told daily Radikal. “As caterpillars are banned at the bazaar, all the building’s ceilings will be restored manually.”

The bazaar has a covered area of 45,000 square meters.

The restoration will take place at night so as not to disturb the daily trade in the bazaar.

After the renewal, the bazaar will have the potential to meet the demands of big brands, Fırat said.

Vakko and Migros have already applied to the bazaar management in the past few weeks, he said. “Vakko even offered to open a stand as an interim solution.”

“Migros also requested a place, even if it is just 40 square meters,” he said.

The biggest revitalization in the bazaar’s history has attracted brands such as Vakko, a local luxurious garments seller, and Migros, a supermarkets chain.

Vakko has applied to rent a storefront in the bazaar, as many celebrities and international figures visit the structure during their vacations to Istanbul.

“We were always interested in the Grand Bazaar since it is the first destination to visit for a foreign tourist in the city,” Vakko Board Chairman Cem Hakko told daily Radikal. “World leaders and stars shop at the bazaar during their Istanbul visits.”

Hakko said the company is waiting for the bazaar management to reply to their request.

Migros said a store in the bazaar would be a “prestige investment” for the company.

“The Grand Bazaar is a special location for us,” said Özgür Tort, the Migros general manager. “It is important not only because of its historic texture but also its heavy daily traffic.”

Yılmaz Yılmaz, the head of the United Brands Association in Turkey, called the bazaar the oldest covered shopping center in the world. Modern retailers joining the traditional in the bazaar would create a different kind of synergy, he said.

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