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New life given to Tbilisi’s central shopping centre

An old shopping centre built in the Soviet times on the capital city’s main Rustaveli ave  has a new owner and a new future.

The building, commonly known as the Univermagi building, is located near Freedom Square in central Tbilisi.

The building was purchased by the Georgian Co-Investment Fund (GCF) – a $6 billion USD fund founded by former Prime Minister and billionaire tycoon Bidzina Ivanishvili.

The GCF has a mandate to provide investors with unique access through a private equity structure to opportunities in Georgia’s fastest growing industries and sectors. However the GCF’s future plans for the Univermagi building is unknown.

Seven years ago Georgia’s Economy Ministry sold the building to multinational corporation Willbrok Management International, which announced the launch of construction of Willbrook-Platinum Tbilisi Plaza.

A significant investment valued at around $100 million USD was planned to be invested into the project, which was due to be completed several years ago. Initially the Willbrook-Platinum Tbilisi Plaza project involved opening shopping and entertainment facilities in one of the two Univermagi buildings, with a total area of 85,000 sqm. Meanwhile a business centre would open in the second Univermagi building.

The Willbrook-Platinum Tbilisi Plaza was due to be completed in 2012 but the construction works was suspended several times.

Willbrook representatives earlier promised the project would be completed by 2016 however the building was sold to the Georgian Co-Investment Fund. The Fund has not announced their plans for the building.

In earlier years Univermagi was a former department store that very popular among Tbilisi locals. Now, some locals speculate the former Univermagi building could be used as part of the Panorama Tbilisi project, which was initiated by Ivanishvili.

Meanwhile, the Georgian Co-Investment Fund released an announcement yesterday that said the Fund would cover all the preferential duties taken by the Fund within the framework of the state program Produce in Georgia. This decision was made by Ivanishvili and the cost of the preferential duties will be covered using his personal money.

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