South China Mall (Chinese: 华南Mall; pinyin: Huá nán) in Dongguan, China (formerly New South China Mall) is the largest shopping mall in the world when measured in terms of gross leasable area, and third in terms of total area to after Iran Mall (which has extensive non-shopping space including a musical fountain, food court, mosque and hotel).[1]

Quick facts: Location, Opening date, Owner, Total retail f...
South China Mall
LocationDongguan, China
Opening date2005
OwnerFounder Group
Total retail floor area659,611 m2 (7.1 million sq ft)

South China Mall opened in 2005 and for more than 10 years it was mostly vacant as few merchants ever signed up, leading it to be dubbed a dead mall.[2] In 2015 a CNN story reported that the mall had begun to attract tenants after extensive renovations and remodeling, though large portions still remained vacant.[3] According to another article published in January 2018, after more than a decade of high vacancy, most retail spaces were expected to be filled soon, and the mall featured an IMAX-style cinema and theme park.[4]

The mall was built on former farmlands[5] in the Wanjiang District of Dongguan in southern coastal China. The project was spearheaded by Hu Guirong (Alex Hu[5]), who became a billionaire in the instant noodle industry. Upon opening, South China Mall became the largest mall in the world, surpassing the Golden Resources Mall. The cost of its construction is estimated around $1.3 billion.[2][6]

The mall was owned by Dongguan Sanyuan Yinghui Investment & Development (东莞市三元盈晖投资发展有限公司),[7] Hu Guirong's company, but a controlling interest in the mall was later sold to Founder Group, a division of Peking University.[2]

Empty walkways in the mall, February 2010

After opening in 2005, the mall suffered from a severe lack of occupants. Targeted initially to an affluent market (the big cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen are adjacent), Dongguan is itself mainly a city of low income migrant laborers who failed to respond to all the attractions the mall had to offer.[3] Much of the retail space remained empty, with over 99% of the stores still vacant in 2008.[2][8] The only occupied areas were near the entrance where several Western fast food chains are located and a parking structure re-purposed as a kart racing track.[9] A planned Shangri-La Hotel was not completed.

Filmmaker Sam Green made a short film about the South China Mall called Utopia Part 3: the World's Largest Shopping Mall which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and was broadcast on PBS's documentary series POV.

Originally called "South China Mall", the centre was redubbed as "New South China Mall, Living City" in September 2007.[10][11] The 2007 makeover was orchestrated by Founder Group, which took over the property from the original owner Hu Guirong in December 2006.[12]

In 2013, Vagabond Journey writer Wade Shepard wrote about his recent visit to the mall. He acknowledged that most visitors attend the mall for its movie theaters featuring IMAX, and that families did gather in the play area. He also noticed that 4 full floors of the mall were unused, and that the water of the artificial indoor canals had turned green.[13][14]

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