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Delo’s Manja Pušnik spoke to Ljubljana’s deputy mayor Janez Koželj on the development of the city center and the role of the shopping tourism.

They refer to him as the city’s architect, its urbanist, and some call him a visionary, while at municipality he is considered to be one of the greatest experts on Ljubljana’s development. During mayor Zoran Janković’s first term, deputy mayor Janez Koželj outlined his vision for the long-term development of Slovenia’s capital by 2025. Pušnik spoke to Koželj about municipal policy regarding the future development of the city’s centre, especially the lack of exclusive brands in that area. “Ljubljana must offer a comprehensive gastronomy experience, cultural events and beautifully arranged exhibitions for its visitors,” says Koželj.

So, can Ljubljana become a shopping mecca?

Photo: Delo

“The question is, what is a shopping mecca,” Koželj ponders. “The shops in the most famous metropolis, such as Tokyo or New York, are not known for shopping malls, people there buy in city centres. The shopping experience is connected with the experience of the city and its public life, part of which there are beautifully dressed shop windows. I am not sure if Ljubljana should become a shopping mecca of that kind, but it is definitely useful for the life in the city’s centre that shops migrate back to it, after moving to shopping malls on Ljubljana’s outskirts. At the municipality we support this reversal, especially in order to preserve a variety of shops and services in the city’s centre.”

Koželj adds that he appealed to the local merchants not to turn the centre into a Disney area aimed just at tourists. “The conditions for normal urban life, as well as the coexistence of different activities and different inhabitants, should be maintained”. He warns that the living space of locals living in the old town (the city’s centre) is at risk due to new hotels, catering outlets and souvenir shops. “That is why we are striving to influence traders to keep in the heart of the city stores that sell basics and those that people need for everyday life.”

What about the lack of prestigious brands? Apart from the Emporium gallery, there are almost none in the city’s centre. Why doesn’t municipality have a defined business policy as to what shops and outlets should be in the centre of the city?

Koželj agrees that the municipality should have a strategy for the development of trade in the city,  but “I am not sure if there are effective instruments to guide business processes and influence business decisions.” The municipality has some control when publishing tenders for the premises it owns. There is also a responsible person at the municipality for the relations with traders in the city. In addition, the mayor Zoran Janković also meets with traders regularly. Finally, Koželj says, “we would want that the city centre also has the best-selling brands with beautiful window displays. The experience of such displays is one of the experiences of staying in the city, which cannot be experienced in shopping malls.

“For many years I have been striving to have in Ljubljana stores that would sell Slovenian fashion and unique industrial designers – unfortunately without success. For this purpose, I supported three designers who took the initiative to establish a Slovenian design center. However, we have not yet found a suitable space for it because rentals in the city centre are extremely high for such entrepreneurial project. It is a project of the Museum of Architecture and Design, which I support with all my heart and conviction. There is a lack of such project in Ljubljana, and tourists, I think, especially more demanding ones, expect Ljubljana to have it.

“Did you know that the legendary fiat 500 was promoted in Ljubljana in the 1960s? At that time, the city was considered one of the European centres for industrial and unique design.”

You can read the full article in Slovenian here.

Adriatic Journal

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