Beset by low profits, MRT book street faces change



TAIPEI — Taipei Rapid Transit Corp. (TRTC) said Tuesday it is considering the possibility of converting its underground Zhongshan book store street into a shopping center to generate more revenue for the Taipei Metro system.

TRTC president Yen Pang-chieh said the Taipei Metro Zhongshan book store street between the Shuanglian and Zhongshan stations on MRT Line 2 has failed to attract many shoppers in the 10 years it has existed.

Unlike other malls located at the Taipei Main Station and other stations along Zhongxiao East Road, the Zhongshan book store street was opened in 2006 to give a boost to Taiwan’s cultural creative sector.

It was conceived in line with a government initiative to encourage consumers to buy books, but it has not had the desired impact, Yen said.

Of 46 retail spaces available, 11 are not occupied at present, and the area’s sluggish sales and the below-market rents collected from book stores and cultural creative enterprises stationed there are threatening the street’s viability, Yen said.

Taipei collects NT$877 (US$27.07) per ping (3.31 square meters) a month for the space, well below the average rent of NT$2,500 per ping for commercial space in the area, according to real estate agencies.

Yen disclosed the possible change for the book store street after Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je said on March 28, the 20th anniversary of the Taipei Metro, that TRTC should adjust its operating strategies to make more money.

Generating more revenues from non-core businesses, such as managing the subway system’s property, is believed to be one of the methods under review.

Yen said the Taipei Metro hopes to woo companies like Eslite, which operates book stores, shopping smalls and dining services, to run the book store street as an integrated shopping center, which could be more attractive to consumers.

Rental contracts for the Zhongshan book store street will expire on March 31, 2017, and the subway operator intends to raise its monthly rents at the time and allow the area to diversify into more appealing types of businesses, such as coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques.

The change is expected to help the subway system generate an additional NT$10 million a year in revenue, TRTC said.