A shopping center that aims to become a hub for local cultural and creative products and services is due to have several shop openings this month and is expected to be fully operational by the end of the year.
“Village Mall,” located on Rua do Campo in downtown Macau, is spread across three floors of the street’s Broadway Center building. The total area amounts to around 50,000 square meters, with the space organized into about 100 units and a larger exhibition space on the third floor for various events, such as fashion shows and concerts.
Yesterday, an arts and crafts shop named “Binshu Studio,” held a formal opening ceremony at the center, attended by a few dozen people including Window Lei, the director of the mall project.
Lei said that the center will not only be a space for retail but a medium through which Macau artists may showcase their work. He also hopes to provide business services to artists and small companies that may not have the expertise or experience themselves.
Other facilities offering similar services already exist in Macau, such as the Macau Design Centre, which seeks to support local design enterprises and individuals by providing them with resources and below-market rental rates.
However, the new center on Rua do Campo aims to primarily serve creative artisans who are fashioning their own products on a small, non-industrial scale.
The Village Mall has also been in operation, in another form, for some time previously, and was located in an industrial building for around five years. Lei believes that the center’s new site will make it more popular and well-known to residents and tourists alike, given its central location in downtown Macau that makes it more accessible to interested parties.
“This village is in a better location [than before], which makes it easier for people to visit,” he told the Times at yesterday’s opening.
Differing accounts report that somewhere between one-third and one-half of the 100 or so units are open or have been reserved. Although the center is not due for its formal opening until the end of the year, visitors are welcome to look around and visit some shops, which are already showcasing their products.
When the Times visited on three separate occasions, about one-third of the stores appeared to be operational or occupied with equipment. The center appeared empty, but hardly desolate or abandoned, since its recent construction that means the floors are still unblemished.
Lei estimated that tenants occupy around 50 percent of the shops, three or four of which are due to have individual opening events this month.
Fortes Pakeong Sequeira, a local musician and artist, said that he is going to have a shop in the center to exhibit his works, as well as a studio on the third floor that his band will use for recording purposes. Also present at yesterday’s opening, he said that his unit is not yet open as he is waiting for the recording area on the third floor to be completed.
Pakeong also said that he welcomed the opportunity to set up shop in the center, as it would help his art to reach more people. He added that he has been looking for such an area for a long time.
“We have to show local art to Macau people so that they know about us,” he told the Times. “This is very important. I don’t think they [currently] know very much about art.”
Some of Pakeong’s work is already being exhibited in the center, including a tricolor horse sculpture adorned with intricate designs that look as though they have been created with a black marker pen. Additionally there are two large semicircular wood cut-outs illustrated in the same manner, on either side of the horse sculpture.
Among the other products offered in the units already open are small handicrafts, greeting cards, phone cases, jewelry and artisan masks, as well as various artworks, structures and sculptures.
There are also plans for a coffee shop in the center, which some are jokingly calling the most vital ingredient for any cultural and creative hub. Lei said that he expects preparation work for the coffee shop to take off next week.
Anson Ng, the owner of a bookshop and CD store near Senado Square, is one example of the types of merchants that Village Mall organizers are seeking to recruit, though he is not known as an artisan in the same sense as many of the other tenants.
Ng is now looking for a new location from which to sell his records since the landlord of his previous unit announced earlier this month that the lease would not be renewed. Ng told the Times that he has been offered a unit in Village Mall on several occasions but that he doesn’t think it will be “appropriate” for his needs.
He said that the atmosphere there “is not really right,” complaining that only one-third of the units have been taken and that the place feels empty.
Ng said that he would prefer a stand-alone store over a shopping center environment. He explained that his reasoning is not really about the flexibility required to host small gigs, as Pin-to Musica often did, but because he wants somewhere that he can construct an “atmosphere to suit the store’s image.”
The book and music store owner said that he doesn’t want to agree to a discounted rental fee for a year, only to have the rents increase the following year. He says that he often needs to do renovation works, and the cost and inconvenience of these necessitates somewhere “more permanent.”
Rental costs for the units at the Village Mall range from between MOP15 and MOP23 per square foot. It is not clear whether these are first-year only rates.
The project is receiving government subsidies for its establishment and operation. It received MOP2.64 million in such subsidies and a further MOP5 million interest-free loan from the Cultural Industries Fund.
The project has been warmly encouraged by the MSAR government, which is trying to crystallize existing cultural and creative skills in the territory into a self-sufficient industry. The plan ties in with the government’s strategy to diversify the economy of the territory, and reduce Macau’s financial dependence on the gaming sector.