Mall stories

The new shopping center at Hadassah Ein Kerem is already facing trouble.

Is there a cure for the ailing mall at the Hadassah-University Medical Center Ein Kerem? Opened in March 2006, the two-level, air-conditioned mall was grafted on to the sprawling hospital campus ostensibly as its new main entrance. Visitors arriving by bus are intended to enter the mall, ascend to the second floor and cross the pedestrian bridge - which itself is still under construction. But many people continue to access the medical complex through the oncology unit, emergency department, nursing school or other entrances. Among the mall's 35 businesses are branches of Bank Leumi, Super Pharm and Cafe Aroma, as well as dozens of stalls set up in the middle of the aisles. The commercial center also includes a hotel with 90 rooms and six suites available for those who wish to be near their loved ones receiving treatment at the renowned hospital. But while Hadassah Ein Kerem receives some 25,000 visitors daily according to Ron Krumer of the hospital's PR department, many it seems are not keen on shopping for items other than medicine and flowers. Compounding the problem, the commercial center will be in the midst of a construction zone for years. Work has yet to begin on the new atrium entrance and Sarah Wetsman Davidson Tower, a 14-story building that will stand at either side of the aforementioned foot bridge. The tower, designed by a Dallas architecture firm and slated to open in 2012, is the result of a $75 million donation from Willam and Karen Davidson on behalf of Guardian Industries Corp. of Auburn Hill, MI. Krumer shows an artist's rendition which includes the mall, new tower and a stop for the light rail. He adds there is no set date for phase two of the light rail. Those future plans offer little hope to storekeepers today. Last month five stores closed at the mall, including Bistro Kada and American Change. "I don't think I'll come any more. It's terribly slow," says one stall vendor who preferred not to give her name. "Sundays are not a good day," concurs Bracha Avrahami, who sells Jordan Valley olive oil, smoked fish and homemade jams. "We haven't yet decided [if we'll continue to operate a booth]," says a third vendor. "If it continues like today, we won't stay. That all the stores are closing all around can only mean the mall isn't successful." Krumer, who had just returned from lunch at a staff cafeteria that is separate from the mall, explained his department has nothing to do with the Israeli Properties Rental Corporation Ltd. (ISPRO), the Tel Aviv-based company that operates the mall as well as others in Modi'in, Ness Ziona and Kiryat Gat. ISPRO CEO Yossi Friebroon disputes there is a problem at the Hadassah Ein Kerem commercial center. "There's enough people. You just need to know how to sell," he says. In his opinion, it's not realistic to bring clients who are not visiting the hospital. He adds that ISPRO is currently negotiating with new stores in the hope of changing the mall's retail mix and that the company has no plans to reduce the rent.