La Zenia Comercial Centre in Orihuela Costa

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WORK is well underway on the enormous new La Zenia based Commercial Centre, destined to be among the biggest in the country.

It was beginning to seem as if the long-awaited Commercial Centre, to be situated beside the AP-7 toll in La Zenia, Orihuela Costa, was all a myth, as little work was being done there several months after the plans had been made public.

Even after the first stones were laid during an official act in February of this year, progress remained slow and rumours that the project may not go ahead continued to circulate.

However, now that summer is out of the way it is full steam ahead at the colossal building site, which appears to grow considerably everyday. And whilst closure of the bridge linking La Zenia to Villamartin is currently creating many problems for local people, it will all be worth the trouble when it is re-opened at the end of this month, featuring a pedestrian footbridge for a safer route to the centre.

The entire project is being managed by “Immochan España”, the Comercial Real Estate Company of the Auchan Group that is present in 11 countries worldwide and responsible for a staggering 312 commercial centres, encompassing some 2 million square metres of land.

Christened “Zenia Boulevard”, the company’s latest centre will encompass a whopping 180,000 square meters plot, incorporating 150 shops of all kinds, an “Alcampo” superstore and  5,000 parking spaces, half of which will be underground.

Among those confirmed are international names like Auchan, Norauto, C & A, Worten, Leroy Merlin, Decathlon, Primark, and the Inditex Group, which includes high street favourites Zara, Zara Home, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Stradivarius, Oysho and Bershka.

It is not only shop-a-holics that will benefit from the ambitious venture, but also the local labour market, with an anticipated 1,800 jobs being created directly within the centre and almost 3,000 on a global scale.

So How Do Local People View The Project?

Whilst many people can appreciate the benefits of having such an enormous Commercial Centre right on their doorstep, others feel that it could be potentially damaging to the local area, and pose a threat to smaller businesses which are already struggling to survive.

Elaine Poole from Cabo Roig is among those who are thrilled at the prospect, commenting that “I personally think the new commercial centre is a brilliant idea for the local economy and also the work situation. 

A number of smaller businesses operating locally are already suffering due to the mass influx of Chinese shops here, and if the presence of a new commercial centre in the area will reduce the number of these Chinese shops all the better!

I am not concerned about the increase in traffic produced, as those travelling long distances to the new centre will come straight off the motorway into the shopping centre, and I think it will alleviate the current congestion in Torrevieja, particularly around the Habanaras Commercial Centre and Carrefour. 

I do not feel that there will be any problems with rubbish generated from the centre, as Orihuela Costa council has always worked hard to keep this area reasonably clean and tidy”.

Secondary School Teacher from Villamartin, Kate Sloan, thinks on the whole the new commercial development will be a good thing for the area. “It is already providing work in the construction sector, not to mention the employment that will be generated when it opens”.

“It is also appealing that it has recreational facilities that my 12- year old daughter can use as she will be able to go there independently. As for existing businesses in the locality, I’m not sure that they will suffer too much. Competition is healthy and good for the customer, and if the independent stores have what I’m looking for I will continue to buy from them.”

Susan Holmes from Pilar de la Horadada is also excited about the project, although unsure as to whether Orihuela Costa is busy enough all year round to warrant such a large complex.

She commented that “As a lover of shopping I think it’s great. Especially as there’s talk of Primark! I think it will be very busy in the summer, and a relief for the tourists to walk around the air conditioned shops.

But are there enough tourists around out of season?” Conversely, Ted and Sheila Foster of Eagles Nest, feel that the investment would be better spent elsewhere.

“With so many businesses closing down or struggling to make ends meet, and the number of empty or unfinished houses in the area with no signs of growth in the near future, we think the Commercial Centre is a complete waste of money. However, this is Spain and I know that someone will be making a good living out of it!”

Bar Manager, David Smith from Playa Flamenca supported the objections saying that “Businesses on the OC do really well during the summer when there are lots of holiday makers around, but everything dies a death at the end of the season, and bars, shops and other businesses start closing down.

This has left a plethora of smaller commercial centres across the area with only a few businesses operating and the rest empty units. It looks bad for the area and doesn’t do any favours to those who have remained open, as there is less to attract people to the centres, which end up looking tired and scruffy.

With this in mind I think that a massive new commercial centre will crush all of the smaller businesses which won’t be able to compete on price or offer the facilities that the new development will have. Why go to the smaller retailers if you can get everything you want, from DIY goods to clothes, as well as bars, restaurants and recreational facilities, all under one roof?”

By Heidi Wardman

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