After four years in the making, the Tana Russet Plaza is about to open. One of the most ambitions commercial retail projects that Vanuatu has seen to date, the complex is set to revolutionise Vanuatu’s shopping experience.
Over 10,000 square metres in size, with three stories, twenty shops, a supermarket, cinema, food court, games arcade, children’s playground, spa, gym, a third floor of offices and ample parking, this is the kind of project with big corporations at its base. But, far from being a development backed by a group of overseas investors, this is a business built and owned by a Vanuatu family.
The idea first came to Pierre-Henri Brunet while he was in France taking his degree in building and construction. “Looking at large-scale shopping centres in Europe and realising that nothing like this existed in Vanuatu, I was very excited by the idea of building something so new here,” explains Pierre-Henri. Born in Vanuatu, Pierre-Henri Brunet arrived in France early in 2000 and spent the next five years there completing his degree in building and construction. After a couple of years working in Europe, he decided to return to Vanuatu to put his skills to use in his home country. Since his arrival, Pierre-Henri has worked on several of the most innovative projects on the island such as the building of the new BRED Bank complex, the redesign of the old Rosy building and currently the new Akiriki resort on the second lagoon.
It was while undertaking the design and building of the BRED Bank complex that he met architect and designer David Kyle. “Both our fathers had passed away only a few months before and we instantly bonded,” explains David. During the next few years, they worked as a team, David as the main designer for several projects and Pierre-Henri as the builder. Specialising in interior retail, hospitality and corporate design, David has undertaken several projects in Noumea, Port Vila and Australia with prestigious firm I2C, architectural designers behind many of the most well-know shopping centres in Australia. Pierre-Henri dream of building an innovative shopping complex in Vanuatu lead him to acquire the land where Tana Russet Plaza is located and in 2009, he showed the land to David, asking for his thoughts regarding the suitability of the location. “The moment I saw the land, I knew it was the perfect location, just at the entrance of the CBD and right on the main road into town, perfect for a complex of this kind,” explains David.
This was the beginning of the collaboration between Pierre-Henri and David towards creating and building Tana Russet Plaza. “From the beginning, we have been a great team. Our relationship is not purely professional but it is underlined by friendship and strengthened by the fact that we see things the same way most of the time. Keeping the quality and respect for the design can be hard on projects run by a group of investors where costs can be slashed down to the detriment of the design and the quality of the building. With Jean-Pierre, we have not sacrificed quality. We wanted to build something that was modern and sculptural, keeping simplicity but without ending up with one of those ‘square boxes’ buildings. When building, there are always three options; the cheap option, the simple option and the right option. Pierre-Henri has always chosen the right option. For a designer, this is a dream job,” explains David.
Together with Cyrille Mainguy, the initial design and architectural drawings of the complex were created and Tana Russet Plaza was born. “We have been brain-storming since the very beginning and the project has been modified during the past five years to cater best for Vanuatu’s needs,” explains Pierre-Henri. Without financial backers, it has been a labour of arduous work for the Brunet family to drive this huge undertaking to the finishing line. “Most of the materials and fittings for the building had to be imported from all over the world, so ordering the right quantities and dealing with shipping delays have been some of the biggest hurdles,” says Pierre-Henri. The Tana Russet complex design concept was to create a space that was innovative yet blended with Vanuatu’s natural landscape, felt open and had plenty of natural light and airflow. The design has incorporated local materials with the exterior featuring coral and wood. The interior design incorporates very high ceilings and windows in all shops. Other features that separate it from the rest are LED lights fitted through-out, non-slippery materials on all surfaces, high quality fittings, WIFI, security cameras and a sound system with speakers installed through-out. “We wanted to build something that we would be proud of, interesting and innovative and that people would love. The experience has been extremely rewarding and now that it is finished and we can see it all coming together, it is a great feeling of accomplishment. Seeing the response and the interest that the mall is already receiving confirms that we have done a good job,” explains Pierre-Henri.
The same focus on quality and offering something new and something more, has lead the planning of the type of stores and services that feature within the mall. The indefatigable Lili has been at the helm of designing the retail flow of the complex. Sourcing the shops and services and ascertaining the best location for each outlet to create the ultimate shopping experience has been thoughtfully planned. “We wanted to ensure that there is no competition between the different shops within the complex as well as providing shoppers with a great range of outlets and services offering quality,” explains Lili. Some of these features are for example, a huge children’s climbing playground, located on the second floor, that will delight pikininis; a duty free shop; the ‘travelator’, the first of its kind in the Pacific, which is wheel-chair and trolley friendly; a massage outlet located right next door to the movie theatre, so you can get your movie tickets and pop in next door for a 30 minute foot massage before the movie starts, plus the convenience of postal services, a supermarket, phone shops, all major bank ATMs, a spa and a gym, all under the same roof.
One of the much-awaited attractions of the Tana Russet Plaza has been the cinema. Tana Cine will be showing the latest movies in English as well as French movies and has two seating areas, downstairs with 120 seats and tickets for 600 vatu and a more expensive upstairs VIP Gold Class with 36 seats. A toy shop, a selection of men’s, women’s and children’s clothing stores, jewellery shop, computer and electronics shop and many more complete the picture of this contemporary project that is the Tana Russet Plaza. “We are very happy that we have created a complex that focuses on quality, from its design and build to the stores that it holds. To know that we are contributing to raising standards in the country is a great feeling,” states Pierre-Henri.
Tana Russet Plaza will open early in 2015. There are only a couple of available stores and offices. For more information, contact Lili on [email protected]