JUST TWO weeks before the Faro Atrium in Rua de Santo António in Faro is due to open, the identity of the tenants of the 32 stores remains unknown.
A special preview of the new shopping centre and cinema complex last Thursday evening, hosted by the promoter, Companhia Cine Teatro Farense S.A, was attended by the President of Faro Câmara, José Apolinário and the President of the Associação do Comércio e Serviços da Região do Algarve (ACRAL), the association of retailers and service providers of the Algarve, Gilberto Sousa, along with members of the local business community and media.
Although the shops themselves are not yet ready, it was an opportunity to view the building and appraise the new centre’s design and ambience. Situated opposite the popular Gardy café, Faro Atrium replaces the street’s old shopping centre and cinema, which has been all but empty for several years.
The renovation project represents an investment of five million euros and the centre will host 32 shops, a three-screen cinema and a selection of cafés and restaurants.
The building itself is approaching completion, although the main entrance in Rua de Santo António is not yet ready and the ground floor area to the rear, as well as the area surrounding the side exit in Rua Vasco da Gama still require further work.
Over 50 per cent of the retailers have been contracted for the centre, but the shop units are yet to be fitted and there is also the matter of licensing.
The centre is currently scheduled to open on December 14, but according to the promoter, it is likely that only the cinema will be operational on that date.
It has a more luxurious feel than most typical shopping centres with wall to wall marble and an abundance of floor to ceiling windows.
The building enjoys a very modern design and the focus on the ground level is a black marble staircase with a cascading waterfall. As well as a glass elevator, escalators and stairs serve each floor. Balconies on each of the four levels allow visitors to gaze down at the floors and shoppers below and the building boasts natural daylight.
Unlike the Algarve’s existing two main shopping centres, Algarve Shopping in Guia and Forum Algarve in Faro, Faro Atrium is a completely indoor affair and therefore can provide greater comfort for shoppers during the colder months.
In a brief speech during the drinks reception, Hélio Bolas, president of the board of Companhia Cine Teatro Farense S.A, a 50-year-old family run company, told guests of his pride that this 10-year dream was finally becoming a reality and he thanked the architects and construction company Edifer, as well as Faro Câmara for its support.
“I’m sure you will agree with me that this is a really beautiful building,” he said. However, he refused to divulge the names of any of the 32 shops that will open at Faro Atrium, only to say that they will include quality brands.
He later commented: “It is a beautiful building, what we have here is a very good product, which attracts people who wish to work in nice conditions.”
There is much speculation in the media surrounding the expansion plans of Fnac, the technology and entertainment giant and its intention to open a large new store in Faro. Faro Atrium is rumoured to be the location and The Resident sought to find out if there is any truth in this.
“I am aware that the President of Faro Câmara has been in talks with representatives from Fnac, but I really couldn’t say if Faro Atrium is linked in anyway,” said Sousa. “I think Faro needs a big store like Fnac though, we don’t have anything like that here at the moment,” he said.
The Resident contacted Fnac Portugal in Lisbon. “Yes, we have made enquiries in Faro, but this is nothing out of the ordinary, we make enquiries all the time in many cities. Fnac is interested in Faro, but it is not a top priority for the company. We see Coimbra (central Portugal), Braga (north of Porto) and Aveiro (just south of Porto) as being greater priorities in terms of locations for Fnac stores right now,” stated Viriato Filipe, the firm’s head of communications.
Unlike Forum Algarve, Faro Atrium does not have its own free car park, meaning shoppers will have to pay to use the nearby Parque da Pontinha car park or park in the street and pay the meter charge. When asked about this obvious disadvantage, Hélio Bolas told The Resident: “I am not worried, this is something we will overcome.”
The Resident asked Apolinário what he thought of the new centre. “This is very important for the city because it will breathe new life into the centre of Faro,” he commented.
Gilberto Sousa had the following to say: “It is a very good concept and hopefully it will bring new energy to the downtown area. I have noticed there have been more visitors to the downtown area this year and this will help encourage further growth.”
When asked if he thought there were enough people in Faro to warrant another shopping centre, he replied: “Yes, there are enough people and what we have here is a different situation to Forum Algarve.
“This is a traditional shopping area, we are not trying to attract people to a brand new place and, although the parking situation makes things slightly more difficult, I don’t think it will pose a threat.”
Faro city centre is about to enter a new era. As well as the forthcoming opening of Faro Atrium, December also sees the opening of Faro’s new municipal market, a project which represents an investment of over 20 million euros.
By CAROLINE CUNHA