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Temple of consumerism opens doors in Zurich

Sihlcity has retained many features of the old paper mill (ex-press)

Switzerland's largest shopping and leisure complex, Sihlcity, just outside Zurich opened to the public on Thursday and expects an estimated 20,000 visitors a day.

This content was published on March 22, 2007 - 08:11

The 100,000-square-metre development is being billed as both a "consumer temple" and a "city within a city", containing shops, a cinema, a health spa, apartments, a 132-room hotel, a nightclub and even a chapel.

The SFr620 million ($510 million) urban regeneration project is built on the site of a former paper mill on the outskirts of Zurich and uses many of the original features of the old factory.

Investors expect to receive an annual return of SFr40 million ($32.9 million) in rent payments from the 80 shops and other tenants.

Sihlcity has attracted many familiar names such as fashion retailers Zara, H&M and Esprit, but also springs some novel surprises, such as a nine-screen cinema complete with "couples couches" and the less romantic television screens sunk into the floor in the ladies toilets.

Zurich's tourist board has already hailed the complex as a unique entertainment concept and expects it to be a magnet for foreign visitors.

"It will be a key part of Zurich tourism as it offers new depth and richness to the existing attractions of Bahnhofstrasse and the old town. It brings everything together, shopping and entertainment, in one area so people don't really have to move to enjoy it," tourist board head of operations Markus Salzmann told swissinfo.

Spiritual offering

The centre also boasts a chapel that caters for the Roman Catholic, Old Catholic and Reformed Church denominations.

"Churches used to be built in city centres where most people congregated, but these days a lot of people work, live and spend their spare time in other places. The Church has reacted well by going to these places to give people an additional offering," Reformed Church minister Jakob Vetsch told swissinfo.

"Some people may just want a quiet refuge to get away from the bustle, but others like the anonymity of a shopping centre. They can visit the chapel without being seen by people they know who may ask what they are doing here."

Critics of Sihlcity have argued that it would attract traffic chaos to the local Wiedikon area because the complex has only 850 parking places.

But Laurenz Styger, president of the local community association, believes the expected congestion will bring one positive side effect.

"I can imagine that the quality of living in the area around Sihlcity will suffer because of the emissions that comes with such a centre. [But consequently] the [property] rental prices should remain stable and not rise as fast as some people in the area have feared," he told swissinfo.

Sihlcity developers argue that enhanced public transport links, including a new train stop, will ease the traffic burden in the area.

Bahnofstrasse unconcerned

Traders at Zurich city's famous upmarket shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse, believe the lack of parking spots at Sihlcity will work in their favour.

Heidi Mühlemann, spokeswoman for the Zurich Bahnhofstrasse Association, added that out of town centres like Sihlcity and another well-established Zurich landmark, the Glattzentrum, cater for a different clientele.

"Generally we do not feel that we will lose clients. People who shop in Bahnhofstrasse are not the same as those who go to a huge centre such as Sihlcity, where young people feel more at home," she told swissinfo.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen in Zurich

Key facts

Sihlcity was designed by the Swiss architect Theo Hotz.
It houses 13 eating establishments, 80 shops, a cinema, a hotel with 131 rooms, 16 apartments, 24,000 m2 of office space, a nightclub, health centre a chapel and a concert hall/cultural centre.
The luxury apartments cost between SFr2,200 and SFr4,000 per month to rent.

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In brief

Sihlcity is the largest multi-purpose centre of its type in Switzerland, but others have more floor space dedicated purely to shopping.

Shoppi & Tivoli in Spreitenbach, canton Aargau has 75,310 m2 of floor space for shops. The Glattzentrum, on the outskirts of Zurich, offers 43,387 m2.

There are other shopping centres in development, most notably Ebisquare in Ebikon, canton Aargau that will have 40,000 m2 for shops and the Westside centre in Bern that will have 31,000 m2 shopping capacity when it opens in 2008.

By comparison, the South China Mall in Dongguan, China, has 660,000 m2 dedicated to shopping. The Golden Resources Mall in Beijing weighs in with 580,000 m2 for shops.

Elsewhere, the West Edmonton Mall in Canada has 570,000 m2 of floor space with 350,000 for shops.

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