Informed sources said these jewellers have shown no interest in moving to the unique and sophisticated building being re-constructed by the army, and didn’t submit bids for lease space either. The main reason? Many own their shops, lease rental is too high and it’s uneconomical to move out from already, established locations.
The Urban Development Authority (UDA) had called for offers to lease the shops at this centre for a 10-year period. When the bids were opened on March 8, none of the famous Sea Street names was among the list of 27 gem and jewellery merchants. Commercial Bank and Vision Care Optical Ltd also submitted bids for the 100 shops at the centre which will house gem and jewellery shops, banks, food court and money exchange, the sources disclosed, saying the Government plan to attract Sea Street merchants had gone awry.
Sources at the Sri Lanka Jewellers Association said they were given an assurance by the President and the Defence Secretary that merchants will not be evicted from their own shops. Anyone interested in opening a shop at the new gold centre could do so in accordance with their wishes, members were told.
There are around 1500 jewellery shops in Sea Street while the new centre has space for only 100 shops. Sea Street merchants told the Business Times there was no business sense in moving out of locations that have brought lucrative business over the years.
Furthermore the monthly lease at between Rs. 17,000 to 190,000 according to the size of the shop was an additional expense.They noted that some merchants doing business in rented places are paying much less now compared to the proposed gold centre rates. A senior UDA official agreed that there was no obligation for Sea Street merchants to move to the new centre. Under the Colombo city development plan, jewellery shops and goldsmiths’ workshops are to be relocated to the new, modern skyscraper building, utilizing the natural layout by making further improvements for sustainable development.
The exterior appearance will be changed to make it a unique and sophisticated building within the locality. The internal arrangement will be consisted with modern facilities and security system to make more secure place.The project cost is Rs.237 million and the re-construction work which is being carried out by the army is to be completed this year.
An earlier occasion by the UDA calling for bid in July 2011 also failed to receive an adequate response, the official said, adding 14 offers were made then.