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GİLA BENMAYOR > Making a difference in shopping mall madness

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The madness of shopping malls in Turkey is one of the most discussed subjects.

To give a number, there are 313 shopping malls in Turkey as of June 2012, and 107 of them are in Istanbul. 

By the end of 2013, the number of shopping malls in Istanbul is estimated to reach 133, while it is expected to be 233 in Anatolia. 

This means the number of shopping malls in Turkey will be 366 in total by 2013, and that means billions of dollars of investments. 

Our neighbor Russia is among the countries going head to head with Turkey in terms of shopping mall madness. 

According to the latest survey by Retail News, Russia is at the top rank in shopping mall construction, while Turkey comes in second place. 

Other countries following Russia and Turkey are France, Ukraine and Italy. Three large-scale shopping mall projects in progress in Europe (Mall of Istanbul, Marmara Park and Emaar Shopping Center) are in Istanbul. 

But I don’t want to miss the dark sides of these large-scale projects. 

In previous months, 11 people died as a result of a fire that erupted in a tent of workers employed at the Marmara Park Project, of which construction is still ongoing in Esenyurt. 

Historical buildings in Istanbul are also under threat of this madness. 

For example, the 230-year-old historical barracks in Kasımpaşa are under the threat of being pulled down and transformed into a shopping center. 

Even the consulting firms providing services on development and implementation of shopping mall projects agree on the fact that this madness has gotten out of control. 

MRT Livtom consulting firm co-partner Murat Döker underlined that in Beylikdüzü, which is a recently developing region in Istanbul, there are a total of 12 shopping malls on the same street, adding that those investing in shopping malls sometimes are entering into unplanned and unprogrammed endeavors. 

So, what are the older and long-established shopping malls doing in the face of such competition? 
I asked this question to Dr. Nur Ziyaoğlu Aytekin, brand manager of Akmerkez, a shopping mall located in Etiler which has celebrated its 20th anniversary and still manages to be an outstanding center of attraction among the other shopping malls.

Akmerkez allocated a budget of 20 million dollars for its renovation work, ongoing for about two years, and it was chosen as the best shopping mall in Europe in 1995 and the best in the world in 1996. 
Akmerkez, a joint venture of Akkök, Tekfen and İstikbal, has started to offer residential apartments and offices since 1993. So what is the secret of maintaining its popularity all those years?

This is Aytekin’s answer:

“We are in continuous contact with the visitors to Akmerkez. One of our advantages is sustainable culture and art projects. We are enabling 1.5 million people to encounter art each month.”

Akmerkez has hosted nearly 200 artists in its exposition areas in 10 years.

I recommend to everybody the exhibition which opened last May with the title “The contemporaries of Turkey” including the works of 78 contemporary painters.

Supporting the Istanbul biennial, hosting young artists and designers whose names are unknown and getting children familiar with colors are some of Akmerkez’s art projects. 

In sum, those like Akmerkez who are successful in making a difference continue on their path without any problem in the midst of the shopping mall madness.

August/15/2012

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