A total of 17 companies, including three local ones from Bourgas, are vying to become the general contractor to build the first open-air mall in Bourgas, The Strand.On June 10, the building permit for the site was approved and issued, Bourgas chief architect Vesselina Ilieva was quoted as saying by Stroitelstvo Gradut weekly. The deadline for construction firms to put in their bids is June 18.Meanwhile, Dimitar Kaloyanov from investment company ZBS Ltd, which owns the project, has said that "the price will not be leading as a criterion" as quoted by Stroitelstvo Gradut.Experience and expertise, as well as financial stability, turnover and bank guarantees, will reportedly be the main criteria which will be used during the selection process, Kaloyanov said. Once the general contractor is chosen, construction is set to start at the end of July 2009, with the total investment estimated to exceed 30 million euro.The shopping mall will offer 30 000 sq m of retail space, a further 8000 sq m of pedestrian and recreational zones and about 18 000 to 19 000 sq m allocated for car parks. The entire complex will be built on a parcel of more than 60 000 sq m along the motorway to Sofia.The mall is designed by British firm GMW Architects.Open-air malls have lower operational costs compared to the traditional malls which makes them more profitable. Retailers prefer open-air malls because real estate taxes, utility costs and common area costs are much lower than in enclosed malls. This is largely because department store anchors at enclosed malls typically do not pay for rent, land or development, and the costs are passed on to the other tenants.