Footfall at the TRIDA’s shopping complexes in the city is decreasing by the day

Do buildings die? That question probably led to the coining of the phrase ‘dead malls’ around the turn of the millennium in the West. It was used to signify glitzy shopping malls that slowly turned into ghost towns deserted by customers for glitzier options, leaving shopkeepers in the lurch. A decade down the line, signs of the city being dotted with dead malls, nay shopping complexes, in the near future are ominous.

Way back in the early 1990s, when the popular shopping malls of Bangalore were still a few years from opening and baggy jeans were still a fashion statement, the city welcomed one of its first ‘shopping complexes’ – Kedaram at Kesavadasapuram, an initiative of the Thiruvananthapuram Development Authority (TRIDA), which tasted success with the opening of a smaller complex in medical college in 1988. A few years later, TRIDA opened another one at Palayam, the Saphalyam complex.

The city residents, the young starved of places to hang out and the older ones looking for a one-stop centre for all their spending needs, flocked to these complexes. But, over the years, change failed to seep into them, and they now stand almost as relics of a bygone era. Shopkeepers here complain of lack of maintenance and TRIDA’s apathy to their plight.

Poor amenities

The Saphalyam complex is characterised by lack of proper lighting, inadequate toilet facilities, dysfunctional lifts, and an uneven parking lot.

“People have just stopped coming here. Most of the customers are visitors to the FRIENDS counter, who decide to do some shopping on the side. The stink from the toilets drives half of them away. In the evening, many of the corridors are dark. We have sent so many letters to TRIDA, to no avail. They even ignored a request to put up a display board directing people to the parking lot behind. The parking lot itself is so uneven that many a time the floors of cars get damaged,” Biju Raghavan, a shop owner here, said.

Koshy Varghese, Divisional General Manager of Housing and Urban Development Corporation Ltd., which has its office here, recently filed a complaint against TRIDA with the State Human Rights Commission for repeatedly neglecting his requests to repair the lifts.

“Many of us have physical disabilities, and it’s hard to walk up all those steps. Even old customers to the FRIENDS counter sometimes go back without paying their bills owing to lack of a lift. HUDCO is paying Rs.1,75,000 annually just for maintenance of the premises. We asked for permission to maintain the lift; TRIDA is ignoring even that,” Mr. Koshy said.

The woes are similar at Kedaram, where the shops are witnessing a steady decline in clientele, though the shopkeepers required some prodding to agree to the fact.

Barely making do

“In the first agreement signed with the shopkeepers when the complex started, TRIDA agreed to provide an escalator. This was removed in later agreements, and now the lifts have stopped working too. The only lift working is 20 years old and helps in adding to the current bill. The location of the toilet can be traced from anywhere, thanks to the smell. The parking space has reduced much owing to road widening. TRIDA makes it a point to ignore all our proposals. Because of the sorry state of the entire complex, people have stopped coming, and now we can’t even get enough to pay rent,” says a shopkeeper here on condition of anonymity.

Some of them did contemplate selling off the shop space and leaving, but a clause in the agreement with TRIDA prevented them from doing so.

“We cannot transfer ownership to someone else as per the agreement. We can only surrender to TRIDA, who will then pay back the advance amount we paid 20 years ago, after cutting 20 per cent from it — this at a time when shop space rates are sky-high here. Some of us started shops here in our youth, and we are now close to 50 years old. What else can we do, but hang on and hope for better days?” the shopkeeper says.

The TRIDA complex in medical college — where it all started — perhaps embodies what a ‘dead mall’ looks like. Walls with decades of accumulated dust, dark deserted corridors, cobwebbed ceilings, downed shutters, and hopeful eyes staring from inside the few open shops that haven’t experienced unknown feet walking in for the past many days welcome one to be a part of the last throes of a building which has seen many a sunny day.