20 January 2015 – Cinco Días
Madrid will have a new shopping centre in 2017. The first one to be built in the heart of the capital for more than a decade. The Plaza Río 2 project will be built alongside the Madrid Río park, and will be developed by the company Sociedad General Inmobiliaria de España (LSGIE). The company is led by Robert de Balkany, a Romanian-French multi-millionaire, related by marriage to the European monarchy and a close friend of the former King Juan Carlos. One of the directors of LSGIE, Jaime de Marichalar, is the ex-husband of Elena de Borbón.
The shopping centre, which will be located on Calle Antonio López, less than four kilometres from the Puerta del Sol, will cover an area of 40,000 square metres, with 180 shops over three floors and more than 1,500 parking spaces.
LSGIE has mandated the company SCCE – a subsidiary of the French group SCC, also controlled by the Balkany family – to begin commercial work and look for businesses who want to open stores in Río Plaza 2. For the moment, it has managed to close a deal with its first illustrious tenant: Alcampo announced a few days ago that it will open a store in the new centre occupying an area of 5,000 square metres.
The most recent shopping centre to be opened in the central area of Madrid was the one located in the former Príncipe Pío train station (also next to the Manzanares river) in October 2004. Since then, only smaller centres have opened, such as the one recently opened on Paseo de la Castellana, 200 (which houses 6,000 square metres of retail space).
Over the last 10 years, during which time Spain has gone through the toughest economic crisis since the Civil War, only a handful of retail parks have been developed in the Community of Madrid, although some of those have also borne the stamp of Robert de Balknay. Such is the case of the Plaza Norte 2 complex – in Alcobendas – the largest shopping centre in Spain, covering 50,000 square metres, and most recently, Gran Plaza 2 – in Majadahonda – whose red tape was cut in 2012 by Robert de Balkany himself and the then President of the Community of Madrid, Esperanza Aguirre.
Six shopping centres have been opened in the city of Madrid since 2004 (in Montecarmelo, Canillejas-Plenilunio, Manoteras, Carabanchel-Isla Azul and the Ensanche de Vallecas-La Gavia) according to data from the Spanish Association of Shopping Centres (Aedecc), but none of those are as central as the planned Plaza Río 2.
Another project that is also expected to open its doors in 2017 are the Galarías Canalejas, a luxury shopping centre, covering 7,000 square metres, being developed by Inmobiliaria Espacio and the OHL Group, just 250 metres from the Puerta del Sol.
Plaza Río 2 will be located directly opposite the Matadero Madrid, a group of buildings that have been renovated by the Town Hall in recent years to offer cultural activities (exhibitions, theatres, festivals…) and which has become a magnet for artists and creatives alike. In the area surrounding the capital’s new park, Madrid Río, a project known as Operation Calderón will also be taking shape, involving the demolition of Atlético de Madrid’s current football stadium and the construction of several residential towers.
The original project for the development of the site that will house Plaza Río 2 was approved by the Town Hall in June 2013 and involved the creation of a special urban development plan, which included the construction of a 27-story hotel on top of the shopping centre. However, sources from the company LSGIE say that the project that they have developed never included plans for the construction of that hotel.
The shopping centre’s developers value the location of this site due to its easy access from the M-30 ring road (which runs under the Madrid Río river park), as well as from the roads to Toledo (A-42) and Andalucía (A-4). The proximity of several popular neighbourhoods, such as Usera, Arganzuela, Carabanchel and Puente de Vallecas, has also played a role. According to SCCE’s calculations, 175,000 people live within five minutes of Río Plaza 2 and 500,000 people live within a radius of 10 minutes.
According to the designs for the project, the shopping centre will be directly accessible from the Madrid Río park. Just at that point, there is already a bridge that provides access to the facilities of the Matadero Madrid, the cultural centre Casa del Lector and the Palacio de Cristal-Invernadero de Arganzuela.
The Man Who Brought Us The Mall
The CEO of LSGIE and the SCC group, Robert de Balkany, was the person responsible for importing the concept of the shopping centre or mall from the United States to Europe. It was in 1962 when, after a trip around North America, this Romanian-born Frenchman decided to launch his business venture, which has led him to control the largest shopping centre conglomerate in Europe, with more than 120 properties. He developed his first centre – Parly 2 – in the metropolitan area of the French capital. It opened its doors in 1969. “When I returned from my trip to Detroit, I realised that shopping would never been the same again. The world had changed and consumers wanted service, comfort and activities”, explains Balkany in a corporate publication prepared for the 50th anniversary of the SCC group. “Design had been democratised. I had discovered some land in Chesnay, to the west of Paris, very close to Versailles, and I hired an American architect to join the adventure, to build the first shopping centre in Europe”. Then came Velizy2, Rosny2, Evry2, Ulis2, St Genis2…
Next came international expansion, into Spain, where the SCC group today manages 20 shopping centres, including La Vaguada (the first one opened in the country in 1983) and Plaza Norte 2 (the largest in Spain, with an investment of €300 million and where 2,500 people work). Then came Belgium, Italy, Monaco, Abu Dhabi…
Today, the empire built by Balkany manages 135 shopping centres around the world, with a turnover of €50 million and more than 500 employees.
Original story: Cinco Días (by M. M. Mendieta)
Translation: Carmel Drake