Colombo’s Liberty Plaza getting a face lift
Given Sri Lanka’s long history of an agrarian- and textile-based economy, retail was never considered as a serious asset class to consider in the country’s real estate market. But much talk has been made of a growing number of international brands ready to take up shop in Colombo to capitalize on Sri Lanka’s growing middle class. With just eight operational malls at the end of 2011, varying in leasable areas from 30,000-250,000 square feet, the amount of space is low and subsequently vacancy rates are low at between 3-8%. Subsequently, 1.05 million square feet of retail space expected to come to market by 2015 to capture that growing middle class base, existing shopping malls like Liberty Plaza in Colombo 03 are undergoing major renovations to prime themselves for the competition.
Many shopping malls were originally designed to accommodate local brands whose space requirements are far different from international tenants that seek such factors as large and open floor plans, more public spaces, and clean interiors, all of which can be lacking in the current stock of Colombo’s shopping malls.
The operators of Liberty Plaza, the Colombo Land and Development Co (CLDC), are attempting to address all of the above issues, re-positioning the mall to become more of a mixed-use project, renovating the mall to a more upscale level while simultaneously adding luxury serviced apartments to the project. Such mixed-use projects, while more prevalent in southeast Asia, remain an unproven concept in Sri Lanka. However, optimism only continues to grow for the country’s economic prospects and its citizen’s rising income many of who will, mall operators hope, shop more generously when the time comes to open up the new and gleaming retail spaces.
Photo courtesy of Sunday Times