By Paul Chung
Image credit: Remko Tanis.
It’s twice as large as the Mall of America and features exquisite Arc de Triomphe and Egyptian sphinx replicas, roller coasters, and a 2.1 kilometer canal. All it’s missing are tenants and shoppers.
More than seven years after its grand opening in 2005, the South China Mall (later rebranded New South China Mall in 2007) in Dongguan, Guangdong province still sits largely vacant. At 659,612 square meters, New South China Mall is the world’s largest mall in terms of gross leasable area.
Developers initially expected traffic of over 100,000 visitors a day. Today, the mall houses a handful of Western fast food chains near its entrance, an IMAX theatre, and Teletubbies Edutainment Center. Other than that, the mall has virtually no potential.
The mall’s pathetic suburban location and poor transportation links have commonly been cited for its inevitable demise. Moreover, Dongguan, a city with nearly ten million residents, has a particularly large number of migrant factory workers who are unable to indulge in the same leisure activities as city residents.
This ghost town megaproject has become the poster child of China’s consumer revolution, massive development projects, and real estate property bubble that started mid-last decade.
While New South China Mall may be the world’s largest dead mall, China also lays claim to the world’s largest “functional” mall by gross area. The Golden Resources Mall in Beijing briefly claimed the “world’s largest” crown from 2004 to 2005, until the completion of the New South China Mall.