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Friday, 21 February 2014

The inevitable end for shopping centre Doemere in Almere seems the consequence of municipal greed, shortsightedness and an act-before-you-think attitude

Almost one year ago, I wrote an ‘angry’ article in which I blamed my domicile Almere for ruining two shopping centres, in the part of the city where I live. One of these centres was a regular shopping mall with the usual stores and supermarkets, while the other was a Do-It-Yourself plaza, where all kinds of home, garden, furniture and leisure shops resided.

The city started ruining these shopping malls, by entering into a megalomanic, multi-year and multi-million euro refurbishing project for the area. This project ought to be paid for through the introduction of paid parking, where parking earlier had been for free.

The refurbished, regular shopping centre was extended with a substantial number of highrise-buildings and parking garages, at a time that the Commercial Real Estate crisis in The Netherlands was already slowly gaining momentum. Here are a few snips from this March, 2013 article:

The same municipality did its destructive work in Almere Buiten, a suburb of Almere and the place where I live. About four years ago, the municipality started a building frenzy in the midst of the credit and CRE crisis, in order to ‘refurbish’ ( or perhaps ruin) the center of this suburb: a classic shopping mall, combined with a mid-sized furniture and Do-It-Yourself plaza. The numerous new and megalomanic buildings had to be financed through the introduction of paid parking, with a considerable tariff of €2 per hour in Almere-Buiten.

What a lot of people and especially the shopowners already feared in advance, happened indeed: the slightly outdated, but cosy and usually crowded shopping mall and the furniture & DIY-plaza had been turned into desolate and windy centers with too many high-rise buildings and too little heart. The introduced parking fees and the credit crisis did the rest of the destructive work. 

Both the shopping mall and furniture plaza were almost overnight abandoned by the lovers of fun-shopping, in favour of the center of Almere and other cities. This left many shopowners in desperation. The people didn’t want to pay €5 in parking fees for a few hours of shopping in Almere Buiten, when Almere Center and other cities offered more shops and better entertainment, against equal or lower parking fees.

The worst thing was that the continuous building activities turned the old parts of the regular shopping centre into a war zone. Demolished old buildings, shops and houses stood next to half finished new buildings and shops. In the new and reopened parts of the shopping centre, there were still many vacant shops (please look at the pictures of this aforementioned article). 

The results of this renewal project were disastrous: not only for the refurbished regular shopping centre, but especially for the DIY-plaza. 

This older, somewhat obsolete shopping plaza fell into despair as a consequence of the paid parking and the neverending building activities, surrounding it. Many DIY, furniture and lifestyle shops either turned away from the plaza, or simply defaulted at the spot. The only important new shop that came to this DIY shopping mall, was a large bazaar annex flea market: not exactly the anchor store that this shopping mall needed, in my humble opinion.

initially, the visitors seemed attracted to the flea market and they paid again a visit to Doemere. Unfortunately, this effect was hardly lasting for the other shops. Consequently, Doemere returned to its state of near-death hibernation soon.

Although desperate shopowners turned to the city hall with their outcry for help, in order to end the nearly fatal paid parking in Almere Buiten, the city officials themselves turned them a deaf ear and said that they didn’t have an alternative for it anymore.

And yesterday came, what might be a death sentence for Doemere. The local newspaper Almere Deze Week (i.e. Almere This Week) printed an article, in which the end for Doemere was announced.

The end of Doemere seems neigh. Alderman Henk Mulder (PvdA) stated to the visitors of a political market in Almere, that the shopping centre in Almere Buiten doesn’t have a future in its current form. Even housing development on the Doemere terrain could be a viable option for the future. “We have to look at a different future to find new options’, were Mulder’s words.

Alderman of Almere, Henk Mulder
Picture copyright of: Ernst Labruyère
Click to enlarge
A number of months ago, the former state secretary of Social Affairs, Paul de Krom, assessed the retail industry in Almere. De Krom’s opinion about Doemere was that the foundations of this DIY, furniture and lifestyle shopping centre had become obsolete. Doemere has attracted less visitors for a number of years already and there is no signal whatsoever that change might come soon. Many entrepreneurs blame this on the paid parking, while others think that the formula is not attractive anymore for the modern consumer

Last Thursday, alderman Henk Mulder hinted for the first time that Doemere in its current form is going to end.”Paul de Krom drew this conclusion and I also think about a different future for the area. We have to look, albeit very thoroughly, whether there can be alternative options for Doemere”.

And that is that for Doemere... 

Of course, it would not be fair to blame the whole decay of this shopping centre on paid parking alone. Nevertheless, paid parking has definitely been the final push for a shopping mall, which already had been looking into the abyss for quite some time.

I blame the city officials of Almere for having been too greedy and shortsighted in the past. I also blame them for having showed an act-before-you-think attitude on many occasions, both when it came to residential, as well as commercial real estate development. 

The city still has enormous expansion plans, partially under pressure of the national government, but in order to achieve these plans, the city often takes too many risks.

Almere is the city of: 

Still, I love my city very much and I love especially my part of the city. 
It deserves to have a proper and cosy shopping mall.

Nevertheless, when the city officials maintain paid parking at the current shopping centres in Buiten and don't finish the building project soon, every new initiative seems dead-on-arrival; in that case, people rather go the other, much more attractive shopping centres elsewhere in the city.

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