HANGIN' AT THE MALL: Tiger City Claws Its Way Into Taichung

By Douglas Habecker

If you're a North American, or have lived anywhere on that continent, there's a good chance that you've spent more than your fair share of time in shopping centers and malls. An all-American invention, the shopping center has today revolutionized the global face of retail and entertainment, having the same impact on the world's cities that another American invention--the skyscraper--has.

Over the past couple decades, "hangin' at the mall" has become a national pastime, not just for teenagers, but people of all ages. They come to enjoy the all-weather, one-stop shopping, dining and entertainment experience that only a mall can deliver. A major icon of a past retail generation, the American department store, has only survived as a part, an appendage, of a mall.

There is little doubt that Taiwan itself is now prepared to follow this trend, as a tidal wave of new mall openings has overtaken Taipei, Taichung and other cities, and shows no signs of abating. In Taichung over the past decade, there have been more than a few developments which have been touted as shopping malls but have fallen far short in many regards, because of scale, lay-out, facilities and other factors. However, it has not been until the past few months that not one, but two, real malls have opened in the city. Both of these, Tiger City and Taichung Central, are already bringing a new standard to central Taiwan residents and lay the ground for more of the same in the future.

The most recent addition, Tiger City, has gone all-out to make a splash with the January grand openings of both the mall and its largest tennant, Warner Village cinema complex. Although relatively compact by American standards, the new mall has a decidedly more American feel to its lay-out and design than its other city counterpart, whose approach is slightly more like a department store.

Managed by Jones Lang LaSalle, respectively, Tiger City boasts a total of 49,000 square meters (about 15,000 pings) of interior space, of which 28,000 is given to sales space. Most of this is spread across three above-ground and two basement levels. Floors four through six are filled by Warner Village, seven and eight will be used for a City Club, spa and upcoming Warner Gold Class VIP theater, and there is one B3 level for parking.

Tiger City is certainly one of the most striking buildings in Taichung, an all-white structure that draws admiration day or night and, in this case, actually looks like the idealized architectural drawings that preceded construction. The mall's American feel primarily comes from the fact that it features 100 stand-alone shops, cafes and restaurants, versus the open-floor lay-out of department stores. The one other thing that feels distinctly American is the outdoor parking that surrounds the mall, something that one almost never sees in Taiwan.

Visually and otherwise, the focal point of the mall is its 3,305-square-meter plaza, decorated with palm trees and a fountain and floor-lit with blue and white lights at night. Overlooking the square is one of the country's largest LED displays, showing movie previews and other video clips. According to management, the plaza will be used for a wide range of activities and promotions, from live bands to movie openings (such as the horse-mounted ring wraiths that galloped around during the "Lord of the Rings" premier). For people-watching its hard to beat this area, particularly if you choose to sit at first-floor Starbucks, or overlooking, second-floor balcony of Aqua Bay cafe. Soon to follow is Lavazza cafe, also with a balcony, above Starbucks.

Standing sentinel on the plaza is the striking, three-floor glass tube housing the classy Cafe Blu and Le Blu champagne bar (see What's New). Outside and to the side is a photo booth where one can pose for pictures in front of famous and amusing scenes from around the world. Another striking outdoor feature is just behind Cafe Blu and down a flight of stairs. Here, a small sunken square is bordered by the neat-looking Cha for Tea teahouse/restaurant (see this month's What's New) and a blue wall of water. Water from this fountain area follows a little canal into the mall's B1 level, where the swanky, two-floor T-Thai restaurant offers a good buffet of Thai cuisine (NT$580/lunch, NT$600/dinner). Opposite is the large Dadido shabu shabu restaurant, owned by popular TV show host Liu Er-chin, better known for his female impersonations of Vice President Annette Lu.

Take the passageway all the way inside and you'll reach one of Tiger City's other main attractions, the two-level Club SEGA. A heaven for video-game fanatics, this state-of-the-art arcade has everything from the standard fight games to the mind-blowing Sega Max Flight VR2002 roller coaster simulater that spins you 360 degrees and then some (NT$100/ride).

Back up on the first floor, there is plenty to keep shoppers busy, from the upscale jewelry of Lih Win Diamond to the more down-to-earth fashions of Tommy Jeans. Looking identical to its US outlets is a Clarks shoe store, next to an attractive Stefanel fashion outlet. Other stores on the same level include Everald Spa Shop, with everything from aromatherapy to baby spa products; Anna Sui's selection of sunglasses; The Perfect Potiion's beauty and aromatherapy products; La Stella jewelry; fashions at Marie Claire and Jorya; and other names like MCM, Lautreamont, Le Gatte Jeans, Jamei Chen, and Tant Pour Elle.

Head up the escalator in the mall's circular hub and there are two more floors of similar attractions. The second floor, which focuses on "youth fashion", has a wide range of outlets selling clothing, bags, shoes and other items that definitely cater to the under-25 crowd. Shops include Soda, Buy or Die, Kansas (Wrangler and other jeans), DCSHOECOUSA (skateboarder fashion), Princess Tam Tam, Swatch, Roxy, and Macanna.

The third floor's "living and gourmet" outlets include the NET and A&D clothing stores, herbal teas and products at Just Herb, home products and decorations at Working House, and a variety of beauty and spa products. Here, too, is the food court, with about a dozen options, such as Italian gelato at Ditrevi, Japanese cuisine at Kiku Kawa, beef noodles at Mercury, Indian cuisine at The Spice Shop, and the ubiquitous McDonald's.

Movie-goers have plenty of options at the eight-screen, 3,000-seat Warner Village which, looks and feels like a piece of America. State-of-the-art movie technology and theater snacks like nachos complete the image. Tickets can be purchased either at first-floor, open-air counter, or at the third-floor Warner snack bar.

"It’s quite important to make a good first impression and make [customers] want to come again. I want this to be a landmark, part of residents?lifestyle, so that they come here two or three times a week, for the cinema, concerts, coffee, art events and other activities," says Asai Tiger Group Chairman Eagle Lai, the man behind this NT$3.5 billion project.

Lai and other mall managers anticipate 30,000 to 50,000 visitors per day and hope for an annual intake of NT$10 billion. While it remains to be seen if that target will be reached or not, the crowds that have already jammed into Tiger City seem to indicate that a lot of Taichung residents have already gotten used to hangin' at the mall.

(Tiger City is located at 120, Henan [Honan] Rd. and may be contacted at 04-3606-8888. The mall opens at 11 am, with floors 1-4 open to 10 pm on weekdays and to 11 pm on Fridays, Saturdays and holiday eves. The B1/B2 levels are open to midnight.)

View This Page In Chinese