Designs on the Future

Published:  19 December, 2013

Unibail Rodamco’s Mall of Scandinavia in Stockholm is aiming to set new standards for shopping centre parking

Unibail Rodamco, Europe’s biggest specialist shopping centre landlord, is gearing up to open Mall of Scandinavia, a 101,000-sq m shopping centre in Stockholm. And, with a focus on creating a car park that will set new standards in Europe, it has already built a full scale mock-up of the entrance two years ahead of opening.

As the first impression many visitors get of the centre, getting the 4,000-space car park right is top of the list of priorities, and the team at Unibail Rodamco have thought long and hard about access, ease of use and customer service, revenue schemes, and aesthetics.  

“We wanted to create a car park that would meet the highest international standards,” explains Lars-Åke Tollemark, managing director, Nordics, Unibail Rodamco. “We’ve built a full size mock-up of the car park entrance – something that’s never been done before – and we believe it will be the first time that people really feel they’re entering the shopping centre when they enter the car park.” 

The car park will be accessible from every direction of the surrounding road network, utilising space both above and below the shops with eight banks of escalators feeding people into various parts of the centre direct from the car park, assisting customer flow in the malls and protecting the scheme against dead spots.  

“We are having escalators that transport people directly from the car park into the malls, so people will enter the centre in eight connecting parts, all the way through the building,” explains Tollemark. 

“It involved a fight with the architect because they prefer clean lines, but we were determined,” he adds. “The centre and the car park will be hugely integrated – it’s something we’ve really worked on.”  

A parking management system – easily visible red and green lights at the end of each bay indicating whether it is free or in use, and blue lights to mark disabled spaces, with integrated signage directing people to spaces at each level – has been successful in shortening the time it takes people to find parking spaces and reducing queues at other centres in the portfolio. Its installation at Mall of Scandinavia is estimated to make the car park 10 per cent more efficient, allowing Unibail Rodamco to build 400 fewer spaces. 

The mall’s location in the new city district of Arenastaden puts it on the doorstep of Friends Arena (Scandinavia’s largest and most modern multi-function complex), a 400-room hotel, 2,000 apartments and 450,000 sq m of office space. Unibail Rodamco is taking advantage of its neighbours, signing contractual parking to an office development for the use of 1,500 spaces between 9am-5pm during the week. 

“That’s great for our income,” says Tollemark. “At least 1,000 spaces will be occupied every day, so we’ll be getting paid for parking spaces during quieter periods. And it will benefit us in terms of footfall and sales too, encouraging local office workers to shop here rather than near their homes, plus they tend to buy more than others.” 

For shoppers that arrive by car, the first two hours will be free, with an extra free hour for loyalty card customers. The loyalty card is free, requiring a simple registration process and will sync to people’s smartphones, offering them discounts and offers from tenants the second they drive in. 

The whole system and equipment infrastructure will allow management to see exactly which spaces are hot and cold and to react to problems such as staff taking up spaces closest to the shops at the inconvenience of visitors.

On the experience side, the car park will offer users valet parking – a first for a Swedish shopping centre – it will have electric vehicle charging points and a car wash and they will trial a ‘butler’ service, particularly in the run up to Christmas, with staff employed to help shoppers carry shopping bags to their cars. 

“All car park staff will be trained to a high level and wear branded uniforms – they will look and behave more like they work in a hotel than in a shopping centre,” explains Tollemark.  

The car park will also have ‘Find My Car’, available through the centre’s app, which uses GPS to locate the user via their phone and direct them back to their car, after inputting the number plate details.  

“It’s easy for people to forget where they’ve parked, especially in a large multiple floor car park after they’ve been shopping for a couple of hours,” says Tollemark. “Find My Car shows people back to their cars and it’s accurate to within 50cm.” 

Unibail Rodamco has put equal time and effort into planning the aesthetics as it has management and technology, choosing expensive and high maintenance finishes over cheaper options.

The car park will be under a roof and heated and motorists will arrive into a lavish foyer area, complete with sofas and mall maps so they can plan their shopping trip in comfort.

There will be bright, colour-coded zones which correspond to the light rails of the nearest escalators so people can find their way back easily from the malls, all technology and equipment will be branded, and driving and walking areas will be clearly defined for safety. 

“We’ve taken special care to design the walkways so that people, especially families with young children, pass as few cars as possible on their way to the shops,” says Tollemark. “And there’ll be a special shiny floor which we have in all our car parks, despite it needing a significant maintenance regime because people have nails in their winter tyres in Sweden and it damages the flooring. The maintenance costs will be high but we think it’s important to have a nice painted floor.” 

Many of the smaller details are outlined in what he calls the company’s ‘four star quality system’, a document containing 600 points that need to be delivered in each scheme, devised by the group and audited externally. And Tollemark is confident the car park at Mall of Scandinavia, once open, will deliver all that and more, as he concludes: “The plans for this car park have changed dramatically in the last two years. The mock-up we’ve built is amazing; it will form an integral part of the centre and it will be a role model for other car parks in Europe – people will have never seen anything like this.”

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