Friday, June 21, 2024

After Warsaw’s largest shopping centre destroyed by fire, owner pledges to rebuild

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The owner of Warsaw’s largest shopping centre, which was destroyed in a fire on Sunday, has announced that it will rebuild the facility in discussion with the business owners who operate there.

Local authorities have also pledged to support merchants who lost their businesses and police are investigating the cause of the fire amid claims that it could have been deliberately caused.

The fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning and spread quickly. By the time it was brought under control by fire fighters, virtually the entire shopping centre, known as Marywilska 44, had been destroyed. No one was hurt in the fire, which took place when the facility was closed.

The site had hosted almost 1,400 commercial units, a large proportion of them run by small, family businesses. The centre was also known for the diversity of its traders, with outlets run by Vietnamese, Turks and Africans, as well as Poles.

Many of those business owners have spoken to Polish media, expressing their anguish at losing their businesses but also anger that there apparently were no systems in place to prevent such a rapid spread of the fire.

Conspiracy theories also quickly spread online, suggesting that the fire could have been started deliberately so that the existing building would be destroyed and the site could be redeveloped, for example as housing.

Such ideas were stoked by the fact that many business owners at Marywilska 44 launched a protest earlier this year against plans to significantly increase the rent they pay.

The commander of Poland’s fire service, Mariusz Feltynowski, told the media on Sunday that it had been “very strange” how quickly the fire spread.

“Not all [anti-fire] systems inside worked, they could have been disabled,” he added, quoted by news website Onet.

However, Warsaw’s deputy mayor, Tomasz Bratek, told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) on Sunday that the city, which owns the land in question, has “never had any plans to sell it”.

Meanwhile, in a statement to the stock exchange on Sunday evening, the site’s owner, Mirbud, said that its board had “decided to rebuild the shopping halls of Marywilska 44”.

“The situation is dramatic, especially for tenants running businesses in the facility,” said the firm’s CEO, Małgorzata Konarska, in an interview with financial news service Money.pl.

“Their world collapsed. Most of them run sole proprietorships,” she added. “We will talk to them about developing a new, replacement concept. Without running a business, they will not earn money, so we want to help them.”

In its statement to the stock exchange, Mirbud also noted that the “circumstances of the incident are being investigated by the relevant authorities”.

Warsaw’s police headquarters issued a statement on Sunday saying that an investigation was underway to “determine the exact cause and circumstances of the fire”.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for city hall said that they would hold talks with the merchants about to help them recover. The governor of Mazovia province, in which Warsaw is located, also said that he would consider how funds can be released to support those affected.


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Main image credit: Dariusz Borowicz / Agencja Wyborcza.pl

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