Boxpark and City Mall battle it out to claim status as the world’s first pop-up mall

There’s a battle brewing over which pop-up mall will be the world’s first. London’s Boxpark was crowned a few times – first false-start opening in August, second in October – but now it looks like City Mall in Christchurch is going to attract that premier shopper. Slated to open in conjunction with Cup and Show Week, a horse-racing, crazy hat-wearing, log-cutting festival in November, the Kiwi pop up will have 60 shipping containers and 27 stores arranged around a central café court.

City Mall’s quick progress has been sped along by $3.4 million NZD in tax-free government loans, part of the Restart the Heart Initiative that’s rebuilding earthquake-shattered Christchurch. Back-to-back quakes in Fall 2010 and February 2011 shook southern New Zealand and brought down all but three buildings in the downtown area. Rather than spend years building a brick-and-mortar mall, redevelopers went with stackable shipping containers that erect fast and can be moved if property owners sell long-term leases. The modular building will house, among others, Armani Jeans, Hummingbird Coffee, Ben Sherman, G-Star and Deisel. Central City Business Association Manager Paul Lonsdale says he expects City Mall to be up for four years and quickly bring commerce and tax dollars into the economy.

Boxpark, not far from the Olympic complex in London’s up-and-coming Shoreditch neighborhood, is also constructed from shipping containers. With a prime location across from the High Street subway stop, Boxpark will eventually revitalize the old rail yard it’s built on. The mall is meant provide startups with a low-risk retail opportunity and established brands with a small space to curate exclusive collections. Boxpark will be “all packed full of buzzing, exciting, interesting things,” says Andrew Waugh, a principle of designing firm Waugh Thistleton Architects.

Boxpark will eventually launch, and the structure gives retail developer Hammerson and lux residential developer Ballymore the mandatory temporary real estate they need to show they’re worthy of permanent contracts to furnish Shoreditch with offices and homes once the mall proves people will visit what was once a desolate rail yard. Wow, what a run-on sentence! Hope you’re still with me! Soon enough, Boxpark should have 40 fashion, footwear, bookstores and bike shops on the first floor and 20 cafes, coffee shops, art galleries and a handful of blank slates for fashion and PR showcases on the second. One- and five-year leases are available.

“Never ever [has there] been a situation where multiple containers have been put together on a temporary site all throughout the world,” proclaims Roger Wade, the mind behind Boxpark, the first … or second pop-up mall ever.

Greg Spielberg | October 25 2011

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