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A year and a half after the acquisition of Arena Mall in Herzliya, Financial Levers has completed plans for rebranding the shopping center at a cost of some NIS 60 million. Financial Levers owners Jacky Ben-Zaken and Avraham Nanikashvili hopes that the process, which is slated for completion this fall, will perk up the somewhat lethargic business there.

The crowning addition to the new mix of stores at Arena was been clinched in a preliminary agreement recently signed between the shopping center and the United States retail chain Gap. The Arena location is slated to be the third Gap store in Israel.

Gap's Arena spacious 1,000 sqm. outlet will open its doors in December 2010, 30 days after the slated inauguration of the Tel Aviv store. A branch is also planned for Jerusalem.

The Herzliya store will include men's, women's and infants' departments. Ben-Zaken said that Gap will replace the Fox outlet, which will consolidate its adult and children's clothing departments into a single store, and the Pelephone store, which will be redesigned. Moti Zisser, who owns the Gap franchise for Israel, is the former owner of the Arena Mall but chose to sell it to Levers.

Ben-Zaken said that representatives of the Swedish clothing retailer H&M examined the mall last month as well, although it is too early to say whether the international chain will rent space there - H&M is not expecting to enter the Israeli market before 2011.

Ben-Zaken relates that although current occupancy at the mall is 80%, by the end of this year it will be fully occupied. Commercial rents, which stood at $32 per square meter when the mall was purchased, now range between $15 and $100 per sq. m., still among the lowest in the country for available mall space, Ben-Zaken says.

The new owners have had to deal with problems that include the marketing mix within the mall, overly high market positioning and unsuitable design.

"The expectation was that wealthy clientele and Herzliya Pituach residents would like the mall, but it didn't work, and aside from jewelry stores businesses have not really proven themselves," Ben-Zaken said.