OLD timers may lament the malling ofCosta Rica, but the trend seems unstoppable.If last year saw an east-suburban boomwith the opening of the Multiplaza del Esteand the colossal Terramall, 2004 is shapingup to be a burgeoning year for areas westand north of San José, with shopping-centerdevelopment marching toward the fringesof the Central Valley.The Centro Comercial La Ribera (LaRibera de Belén, 239-5280, www.cclaribera.com) kicked off the new round of shopping-center openings in August. The 9,800square meter (105,487 square feet) center, 2km (1.2 miles) west of the Marriott Hotel,serves a previously underserved area triangulatedby Heredia, Alajuela and Belén,according to project director RicardoCavazos.HE describes the shopping center’svicinity as a middle- to upper-middle-classarea, and one that sees an influx of 35,000commuters daily.Some 8,400 homes are slated for constructionnearby. Cavazos predicts thedevelopment will become an increasinglyattractive area to live with the mall providingan alternative to shopping in downtownSan Antonio de Belén.La Ribera counts 65 stores and businesses,anchored by a Mega Super-IGAsupermarket, the upscale result of a newalliance between Costa Rican chain MegaSuper and the IGA chain in the UnitedStates. Also new in concept is a shopping mallmedical clinic, with physician, dentaland optical offices, as well as a pharmacy.LARGEST of this year’s new developmentswill be Paseo de las Flores (Highwayto Heredia, 261-9898, www.paseodelasflores.co.cr), weighing in when it opens nextmonth north of San José with an area of90,000 square meters (968,760 square feet)and 169 stores and businesses.Finishing touches are being put on thesite across from the UniversidadInteramericana. The area has seen rapidgrowth in recent years ignited by the openingof Costa Rica’s second PriceSmart 300meters down the road.“Heredia is the country’s fastest growingprovince and Paseo de las Flores isexpected to be a big success,” said MarioBarcuna, commercial director for the mall.La Gloria department store and Más xMenos supermarket will anchor the two-levelcenter, a project of Desarrollos Mega.Old standbys Radio Shack, Office Depot,Guess, Levis, Nautica and LibreríaInternacional bookstore will be among the offerings, as well as eight banks, a 21-standfood court, and six theaters belonging to theCosta Rican CCM Cinema chain.THE new Mega Super-IGA prototypewill also anchor Plaza Occidente (San Ramón,447-6297, www.plazaoccidente.com) scheduledto open next month. The project, beingdeveloped by the Magui LGM corporation,sits at the entrance to the far-western CentralValley city of San Ramón on the Inter-American Highway.“We are careful to not refer to this as‘Plaza San Ramón,’” said Guido Vásquez,project manager, even though the complexsits a mere 500 meters (1,640 feet) from thecenter of the city.Vásquez quickly points out that the 39-store mall will serve an area of more than200,000 people including those from theneighboring communities of Palmares,Naranjo, Zarcero, Atenas, Sarchí andGrecia. It will be the only facility of its kindbetween Alajuela and the northwestern hubcity of Liberia.Plaza Occidente will feature a foodcourt and Vásquez said negotiations are inprogress with CCM Cinemas to operate themall’s three movie theaters.CLOSEST in of the new shopping centersis Plaza Rohrmoser (highway to Pavas,258-9122, www.gbkdesarrollos.com),scheduled to open early next month 200meters (656 feet) east of the U.S. Embassyin Pavas, in western San José. The three-levelcenter is a project of GB&KDesarrollos Inmobiliarios and will count 78stores in its 27,000-square-meter (290,628-square-foot) commercial area.The center will serve a primary marketof some 60,000 people in an affluent areaon the city’s west side.Plaza Rohrmoser will provide an up-marketalternative to the older CentroComercial del Oeste just down the road,said project manager Armando Céspedes. Itwill count names such as Liz Claiborneamong its businesses, as well as a bar andrestaurants new to Costa Rica. Céspedeswas not authorized to say which ones at thetime of publication.