February 6, 2023

Taylor Daily Press

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Burnt down, rebuilt and now sold for 21 million euros: a shopping center with a long history is changing (Ghent)

The Hema shopping complex on Korenmarkt is passing from hand to hand. Arioso Investments sold the building for 21 million euros to the real estate company Qrf. The group mentioned that yesterday. The stores there will remain Hema, Casa, Hans Anders, Ici Paris XL, C&A and Basic Fit.

It is one of the largest retail buildings in Ghent, with a long history. Older residents of Ghent still know it as “Sarmacomplex” or even “Grand Bazar”. The shopping complex was built 120 years ago. For a long time there was also a “Drei Schweitzer” or “Trois Suisses” hotel just around the corner.

This is what the complex looked like at that time … © Image Bank City of Ghent

… until a major fire in 1946 destroyed the entire complex. New construction will take years to come. © Image Bank City of Ghent


After the transfer of the Grand Bazar (GB), the then revolutionary new Sarma (Société anonyme pour la revente d’articles de masse) settled there. This was a supermarket, like today’s Hema, selling at unit prices.

In 1946 the Sarma complex burned down completely. Sarma remained open and wanted to build a new building. But Monumentenzorg thought it was too modern for what they wanted, so it would take until the late 1950s before the Flemish facades were somewhat demolished in the old Flemish style.

When the new Sarma opened in 1960, the building housed Ghent’s first self-service restaurant, Floralia, which was still a novelty concept at the time. There was also a jukebox selling records, all very recent and cheap.

Grand reopening of the new Sarma complex in 1960. Not much has changed in the view since then. © Image Bank City of Ghent

The reopening of the Sarma complex on the “Koornmarkt” was big news in Ghent at the time. ©IF

But soon Sarma’s success waned: Benny Group took over Sarma and brought high-quality clothing there. Penney was absorbed into the GB group, which eventually sold the stores to the Hema owners and left Sarma bankrupt.


Over twenty years ago, then-owner Redevco undertook extensive renovations, including to accommodate Saturn, a subsidiary of Media Markt City and Blokker. But those are gone now too.

The existing stores combined pay €1.36m in rent for the building, Qrf reported yesterday. The real estate company now owns retail properties in the “big three” in the shopping heart of Ghent: Langemont, Feldstraat and Kornmarkt.

Since 2019, the Ghent-based real estate company is mainly owned by the well-known Ostend-Vanmorkerk family. Qrf also bought the former Fnac building on Veldstraat last year, and started an extensive renovation. “We are committed to the growing attraction of Ghent as one of the most important central cities in Belgium,” it sounds like.

Read also. The Veldstraat goes back to the ’60s: the old Fnac building is being renovated in its original style

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