Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, why?

Watch out! Shopping centre epidemic is spreading fast.

Spatial planning is not an easy task . Apparently, Poznań’s officials have not learnt that yet. Civil servants in Poznań seem to use counting-out rhymes to decide what and where to build, without even recognizing the citizens’ needs, surroundings or usefulness of the new initiatives. It may look like they are planning ahead for a few decades, especially as it was presented to the citizens before Euro 2012, however, they are not even able to plan and finish the rebuilding of Most Dworcowy in the centre of the city on time. However, nothing stood on their way to completing the construction of the newest mall in the city – City Centre, the roof of which unfortunately crashed a few months later. The lust for money and absent-mindedness seem to be guiding every building permit in this town.

The city has spent enormous sums of money on modernising public transport in Poznań. The citizens still pay for that – in the form of more expensive tickets, which were well known for their affordability even a few years ago. Civil servants should encourage people to use it, by building some park and ride places, where commuting people would be able to leave their cars and travel the rest of their way to school or work on public transport. The environment would benefit, the city budget also, and the citizens would not grumble about traffic-jams so much. Instead of this, Poznań’s officials decided to build a new mall. Surprisingly, they have chosen the place where there already is a mall – on the opposite side of the street. Logic? Nowhere to be found. According to the portal galeriehandlowe.pl which specialises in providing information about shopping centres, there are about 49 such places in Poznań and its neighborhood, and this one is going to be the largest.

There are people, including those who are educated and respectable, such as university lecturers, to whom I’ve spoken, who claim that one of the positive sides of such a building may be at least that people who construct it have a job and make money. However, nowadays so many things are to be finished, such as Most Dworcowy, which is constantly under reconstruction, there is a shortage of builders, who have to be hired from other cities and who pay taxes in their hometowns instead of Poznań. Furthermore, those are only temporary jobs, and these people will leave when the building is over.

I’ve talked to Hanna (23), the manager at one of the well-known clothes shop in Malta, the mall next to the new, still-under construction one. She claims that due to there being so many shopping centres in Poznań, there are fewer and fewer clients nowadays. However, the targets are stable and rental costs the same. When asked what she thinks about a new shopping arcade so near her workplace she fearfully says: “I have already started looking for another job. We will all lose our source of income in a few years. It’s high time to look for a job somewhere else. Shopping centres are half-empty nowadays.

The MM mall, one of the newest ones, situated just near the old town in Poznań, should have been an early warning for the city planners. Unfortunately, they do not learn by trial and error. A place in which a few years ago urban life was flourishing, nowadays is nearly deserted. Once a central square full of fresh fruit and vegetables, now seems to stand out with the surrounding of old tenement houses, with its looks of a crumpled piece of paper.

Due to the wide range of choice between shopping centres many of them struggle not to go bankrupt. An ordinary client may observe that many cubicles stay closed as there are no investors willing to rent them. Half of the space for rent in Galeria Pestka or Galeria Sucholeska stay empty. The smaller centres struggle even more as they are not big enough to attract high-street shops. Galeria Podolany in Poznań is nowadays struggling to survive as Karolina Koziołek writes in an article in Głos Wielkopolski, as due to lack of investors the mall has no money to even pay the bills for electricity.

The city of Poznań has a great potential to make use of. Unless someone wants to exploit it in a way which only gives temporary incomes to those in charge, and brings no benefits for the citizens…… Some areas, such as the Piątkowo district, have no planning at all, which leads to reckless decisions and citizens’ dissatisfaction. Officials need to start thinking about the future, unless they want to live in a city full of deserted malls and unsuccessful investments. Fortunately, there are many citizens’ initiatives in which one may get involved and help in changing the city to a more welcoming one.

Dorota Sz.

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