The Černý Most centre will be expanded when in full operation

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield have recently announced that the Černý Most shopping centre will undergo modernization and will be expanded by 9.100 m², representing 32 shops and restaurants and three new cinema screening rooms.

The inauguration is planned for the autumn 2025. The construction began in May, emphasising the lowest possible carbon footprint and using materials from local suppliers. The centre will be fully operational throughout the reconstruction.

Karolína Šustrová has been the Head of Operations for the Czech Republic and Slovakia at Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield for 12 years. She usually deals with asset management of shopping centres, but due to the expansion of CČM, she has been, since this January, temporarily managing the leasing department. As part of her agenda, she also covers the topic of sustainability, which has, in recent years, become a really key issue within the Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield Group. 

What is the current status of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, which operates Centrum Černý Most?  

Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is currently present all over the world, including outside Europe. The original Unibail-Rodamco was represented only in continental Europe, but after the acquisition of Westfield they acquired a large portfolio in Great Britain and America. It is a company that focuses on premium shopping centres in the largest metropolises. They focus relatively narrowly in this type of assets, and the portfolio in our region corresponds with this. We currently have three shopping centres in Prague: Centrum Černý Most, Westfield Chodov and Metropole Zličín. And we also manage the Bratislava Aupark Shopping Centre from Prague, which is now undergoing a divestment process, i.e. a sell-off. 

Has the structure changed in any way? 

When it comes to management, the company’s management puts a relatively great power into the hands of local teams. As for the matrix structure, the Czech team falls under the regional Chief Operating Officer Jakub Skwarlo, who covers an area of Germany, Austria, Poland, as well as the Czech Republic and Slovakia. However, even the individual departments in the Czech Republic have a large degree of autonomy.

You are planning to expand CČM within two years and to do so at full operation, as is usual for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.

That is right. The expansion of the Černý Most Centre – and investment in retail in general – has actually been quite unique since interest rates increased. We are therefore happy that this project was approved internally. At the same time, it proves that the company still sees potential in our region. In fact, the project was also created due to the fact that we identified the prerequisites for the expansion of the centre by additional areas, both from the point of view of customers and retailers’, i.e. tenants’ demand – as well as those who are interested in the centre. 

The project mainly concerns the expansion of the offer of restaurants and entertainment areas. 

Yes, but the areas for fashion and other retail concepts will also be expanded. We are talking about 9,100 sq m of additional leasable area, which will be added in the northeastern part of the existing shopping centre. The reconstruction will take place when in full operation, which means that we will first build the new part and only later connect it to the existing building in such a way that it has as little impact on customers and operations as possible. 

You mentioned that it will focus on food court and entertainment. Are you planning a new catering concept there? 

The concept of the Dining Plaza in Chodov is in a certain way reminiscent of what we want to introduce in Černý Most. Today’s offer no longer meets customers’ expectations and demands, so we want to significantly expand it, including restaurants with waiting staff, etc. At the same time, the entire zone will be even better adjusted to families with children, and common seating areas, for instant, will be supplemented with a children’s corner.

This looks like yet another attraction for visitors

Our vision is to expand the gastro offer and improve the overall atmosphere. There are relatively few restaurants in this catchment area. Therefore, we believe that we are able to attract customers there and create an atmosphere different from the ‘classic food court’ that we know from other shopping centres, so that they feel comfortable there. At the same time, we will open three new cinema screening rooms, which represents another expansion to the area of entertainment. The Černý Most centre is primarily aimed at families with children, but this represents yet another element for creditworthy clientele.

The building will be certified in BREEAM Excellent. Can you tell us the reasons?  

Of course. We have actually been working with BREEAM certification for a long time. We use it for the entire Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield portfolio. The Černý Most Centre now belongs to the pan-European leader in terms of BREEAM in Use certification. It achieves the Excellent for the building level – and even the Outstanding for management level. It is, in a certain way, recognized by all investors and it is something that really plays a fundamental role, even in our non-financial reports. We consider BREEAM a very good guide to what we should focus on in the area of sustainability. It is quite comprehensive, it really monitors all areas from biodiversity to energy efficiency to work with the community, etc. We have also been working with the BREEAM certification in a long-term with local partners who help us. 

And what about the building itself? 

In this case, it will proceed in the BREEAM New Construction Excellent standard, which is a set of standards for very demanding conditions that we have to meet within the construction. They relate to energy efficiency, water recycling, photovoltaic panels, air recovery, material standards, etc. We plan to re-certify the centre after completion of work on BREEAM in Use V6, which is the sixth version of the more demanding Double Outstanding, that is, Outstanding for both management and the building.

Does it mean that you will recycle the original materials and pay as much attention as possible to the surrounding environment? 

I dare say that Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield is truly a leader in sustainability. As the first player in commercial real estate, the entire group is committed to decarbonization by 2050, which is confirmed by Science Based Targets. We take it seriously. It is not just about certifications, but we really have a sustainability strategy. As for the construction, it is partly related to BREEAM in Use, but there are also some of our internal regulations. In connection with them, we check the carbon footprint of the entire building very carefully and try to reuse and recycle some of its parts, whether they are parts of facades, elements from railings, floors, etc. What plays a major role is the use of low-emission concrete, or cement. It is to significantly reduce the carbon footprint. Builders don’t like it very much, because the material takes longer to dry, but the saving in terms of CO₂ is huge. We also have solar panels on the Černý Most Centre and more will be installed on the roofs of the new extension and used for its operation.

Let’s go back to water recycling. How will it work?  

Greywater and rainwater will be used for flushing of all toilets as well as for watering greenery such as our communal garden situated behind the centre in direction to the residential area. It is a really nice project. We have recently received the Sustainability Star Award for it at the Sustainability Summit.  

Is it a public space then? 

It is public, but it does not mean that anyone can just walk in there. Those interested must be registered – but it is for free. The event participants will also get a lot of advice on what to grow and when and how to do it.

Do you also have bees? 

There is a total of 10 bee colonies there, so we also have honey, which we give out as gifts to customers and our employees during various events. 

Is there any other interesting issue you would like to talk about? 

The unique Dining Plaza restaurant zone will operate with a minimum number of one-use plastics. We will use a new eco-friendly dishwasher and our tenants will serve food on porcelain dishes with metal cutlery. This means that we will significantly reduce the use of plastic and plastic waste, which is extremely important. We do the same in Chodov, and it is certainly a significant step from the point of view of waste.  

What can customers look forward to once it is completed? 

The number of shops and restaurants at the Černý Most Centre will increase by 32, i.e. to a total of 213. But as a result of the fact that part of the centre is to be restructured, there will be 22 new restaurants and 20 new shops. Apart from the aforementioned restaurants and the entire Dining Plaza concept, where I think customers will feel comfortable, these also include VIP cinemas – three luxurious cinema screening rooms built on the roof. Customers will have the opportunity to order food and drinks, use the most comfortable seats and enjoy the most modern technologies in terms of sound and visuals during the performance. Maxíkov, the children’s attraction where, among other things, we organize regular English courses, theatre, yoga for children, etc., will continue its operation and will also do so during the reconstruction. 

To what extent will the retail area increase? 

The existing arcade on the ground floor will be followed by a section with new shops, where some of the existing tenants will be relocated. There will also be new concepts, larger establishments, and at the same time a relatively interesting number of new brands as 9,100 sq m is quite a large area. What is also worth mentioning is the fact that the food court – Dining Plaza – will be moved to the upper floor and the food offer will be maintained during the reconstruction. 

What is the rental situation? 

There was a lot of interest in the project. The new part of the centre is almost fully leased. I will not reveal the names of the new brands yet, but the customers certainly have something to look forward to.  

Arnošt Wagner

Photo: Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield archive

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