The T1 Mall of Tallinn was recently acquired at an auction and the mall's new manager Tarmo Hõbe told ERR in an interview on his first day at work on Monday that there are ongoing plans to develop the center and some of the changes are planned to be completed by the end of the year.
Hõbe told ERR that the first day of work went by quickly, but since he has been heavily involved in the process, the new ownership was able to hit the ground running.
He noted that while it may seem from media coverage and public opinion that the building, opened in 2018, is completely depreciated and destroyed, the actual situation is not as bad. "Quite a bit of people come here, there is life," Hõbe said.
"The first and fourth floors work well - those house food and entertainment venues. What we need to do some work on is the second and third floors. Certainly, there are many things going on in parallel. We are making larger additions - new entrances, new ways to move between floors. This will all take some time. 2022 will mostly be spent on implementing these changes," the manager added.
He said the concept of the shopping mall will change, but details cannot be unveiled yet. "It is a bit early to talk about it now, but we will certainly not try to compete against other Tallinn malls. We will have our own direction, our own niche."
Responding to a question about tenants saying they were held hostage by the mall and that they were unable to terminate their fixed-term contracts in autumn, Hõbe said the bankruptcy process made it complicated to release tenants from their contracts, but the new management hopes to house tenants that see potential.
"Nothing is set in stone. We have 140 valid contracts. It is a large building. If you take a walk around the floors, you can see emptiness, but there is already a lot to discover in this building already and there is value that other centers just do not offer," Hõbe said of the current situation.
He noted that some 50 percent of commercial spaces in the building are currently active, but all of the office spaces, which are not as visible to the outside, have been rented out.
Hõbe said that work in implementing the planned changes is already ongoing and that there are no major obstacles. "Certain processes just take some time - agreements, negotiations, thinking, implementation. I would say that 2022 is a year of major changes," the building manager said.
"Some people that I know have come to T1 for the first time and discovered that there is a very comfortable and warm parking lot under the building. Many did not know that, they thought there is only the parking building. There are also many stores that are nowhere else but here. One of the best ones is Selver's flagship store, Skypark on the fourth floor, the Skywheel, which is unique in all of Europe, there are only four like these in Asia. So there is much to discover already," Hõbe added, but said people should not visit the center with high expectations yet.
He said convincing people to return to the center will be complicated, if they have already been disappointed with the mall before. "We would want people that come to be surprised - they have heard that everything in the mall is closed and things are very bad, but they come in and see that there is a lot to see," Hõbe said.
He said that while the building is a modern shopping center, but entrances and access has some issues, pointing to an entrance from the Ülemiste shopping center and the nearby railroad stop as the main concern. "In the future, we know that Rail Baltic's new Linda terminal will be here, that will certainly be an important connection for people. We need to make some improvements to achieve better access and make it more comfortable to move around the building," Hõbe said.
The new Ülemiste entrance and interior developments could be finished this year, but an exact completion date cannot be set yet.
Hõbe said they have learned from the mistakes of the previous owners: "It was just the case of so many bad things coinciding at once. The moment in time the mall entered the market, the competition's 'good work', perhaps the concept was either too early or too late. We have taken those lessons and learned from them."
He noted that interest for rental spaces was immediate after the building's sale was announced and that more than 30 businesses have gotten in contact with management to scope out potential opportunities.
The ownership is planning to invest more than €10 million in the shopping mall. "We will not make cosmetic changes, these will be changes that actually improve the center itself," Hõbe said, adding that finding a balance between services and shopping is key for the future.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste