Why Designer Outlet Soltau must grow
50 percent more store space opening in 2025? These are the reasons for the controversial expansion plan.
Lueneburg/Soltau. It opened on August 30, 2012 Designer Outlet Soltau, card DOS. On almost 9,000 square meters shop space different brands offer goods at reduced prices in a total of 55 stores, that’s the promise. It entices.
If you give the nearly 600 pages strong tourism assessment If one believes that this is the basis for an investigation process for an extension now initiated, then the business will account for 590,000 day guests and 58,000 overnight guests per year, which therefore go to Lüneburg Heath come. But there should be more.
Goal: Complete planning requirements by 2024
Not just more visitors, but above all more retail space, more workplaces, more shops, more restaurants, more parking spaces – simply more. If investors, center managers and the city of Soltau have their way, the designer outlet near the A7 should grow by almost 50 percent to 15,000 square meters. According to the city administration in Soltau, the goal will be to complete all planning requirements by 2024 and open them in 2025/2026.
About 250 more jobs would then be added to the 500 jobs. The number of parking spaces would increase from the current 1,200 according to the proposed plan to 1,750; the extension must be built on the alternative car park to the west of the driveway, thus eliminating the need for car parks. However, more would be attached to this to the north on a gravel area, which today functions as an “overflow area” for larger events – according to the specially prepared traffic report.
The experts from ift Freizeit- und Tourismusberatung GmbH assume that the number of visitors will increase from 1.4 to at least 1.8 million per year. That would be around 29 percent more, who would then combine their visit with an overnight stay in the region or a trip to another attraction such as Heide Park Soltau.
But one thing stands in the way of the growth plan: the previous planning foresees only an approved sales area of just under 10,000 square meters. In order to be able to build 50 percent more, the state’s physical planning program must be changed, among other things. The purpose of this instrument is to ensure that individual cities do not perform better than others. So in Soltau a shopping center is being built so strong that it will dig the water out of other cities.
The Hanseatic city of Lüneburg fears negative effects
This is precisely what those responsible in Lüneburg, for example, fear. There, the plans are viewed with great scepticism. “The Hanseatic City of Lüneburg’s primary goal is to protect the city center and to carry out our tasks as a regional center,” says Mayor Claudia Kalisch. “We fear that an expansion of the outlet center in Soltau will have an impact on our city center and on the upper central functions of the Hanseatic city.”
According to the physical planning program, facilities and services for specialized higher needs – such as theatres, universities, specialist clinics – are maintained and developed in the regional centers of Lower Saxony. Retail is also considered a sub-function. A study on retail compatibility commissioned by the city of Soltau also came to the conclusion that Lüneburg, together with Celle, is an important shopping city in the outlet’s catchment area. However, this importance has decreased somewhat since 2020, the result of a telephone survey shows.
“The outlet is in competition with our inner city, which is already suffering due to increasing online shopping,” says Kalisch. An expansion of the outlet center will bring more car traffic with it and is therefore opposed to the urgently needed change in mobility, emphasizes the mayor. “In order to make the city’s position clear and unambiguous, I will put forward a corresponding resolution proposal, which the council must decide on at the next meeting.” The council will meet again on 23 June. The documents for the now initiated procedure were received at the town hall in Lüneburg on Wednesday. “We will now examine these in detail and critically,” says Kalisch. This also included spatial planning. A critical opinion will then be written.
Criticism also from the districts of Lüneburg and Harburg
Criticism also comes from the district of Lüneburg. “The increase in sales area gives reason to fear that there will be a significant weakening of the cities’ trade and also the attractiveness of the cities and the region. The effects not only affect trade, but also gastronomy, cultural and leisure facilities on site,’ says district manager Jens Böther. He is dependent on exploiting the potential of the region. “From the town to the farm shop, there is a selection of shopping opportunities and various excursion destinations, restaurants and places to experience that are attractive to tourists and locals. That is what makes our district so unique.”
The Harburg district is also very skeptical of the extensive plans in Soltau. In the district council, they also want to examine the extensive documents and accompany them critically, as a spokesman announced. Andres Wulfes says: “We fear a weakening of the local trade and the attractiveness of the region. As a district, we stand by the retail trade and the city of Lüneburg and want to support the retail trade and lively inner cities.”
Investment volume in tens of millions
Outlet manager Christian Antholz knows the concerns and problems well enough. “We have long had the desire to expand and hope that the process will finally continue,” says the center manager, who puts the investment volume in the double-digit millions. For comparison: the building cost 80 million euros ten years ago. Since 2017, there has been a fight over the extension, and the courts have also dealt with the matter. The problem from the point of view of the center manager: “Meanwhile, all other outlet centers around us have been able to expand throughout Germany.” Soltau is significantly smaller, which represents a competitive disadvantage. According to Antholz, there are brands that only come from a certain outlet size. When asked what it is and whether there are already potential tenants, he keeps a low profile. Just this much: You are talking freely, but there are no anchor bearings that are already in the background.
The town hall in Soltau also fears for the attractiveness of the business. “There is a risk of premium brands migrating because it is smaller compared to others. We must strengthen it and secure the jobs that have been created so far. This is what we are fighting for,’ says Daniel Gebelein, head of the town planning department. He also points out that there are more opportunities through a strong outlet for the region, also for Lüneburg. Joint marketing could also strengthen the Hanseatic city. A larger and more conveniently located tourism and information area is also planned for the expansion. Gebelein admits: “I understand the concerns and the criticism that the joint marketing could go even better.”
The participation procedure for the regional plan procedure runs until 19 August. Until then, public bodies such as cities, municipalities and districts as well as associations have time to express themselves. Will the outlet manager have reason to celebrate? At least one: September will be the first to celebrate the ten-year anniversary.
Updated: Sat. 06/11/2022, at 07.30
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