Tucked in a sleepy village about 2km away from the Lok Ma Chau border checkpoint is a construction site, at which dozens of workers are racing to turn muddy foundations and scattered parts into a pop-up shopping mall. The 420,000 sq ft site, equivalent to the size of four soccer pitches, near San Tin Tsuen Road has once again missed its completion deadline – originally October last year, but since then Christmas last year, then Lunar New Year, then this summer – according to lawmaker Wong Ting-kwong. Now it aims to greet its first customer in Christmas at the earliest, Wong, the mastermind of the project, told the Post . Modelled on outlet malls in the United States, the pop-up shopping mall was to be built on land jointly owned by Sun Hung Kai Properties and Henderson Land Development and was conceived to capitalise on the massive influx of shoppers and traders from across the border in 2013. However, since then mainland visitors to Hong Kong fell sharply while strict government requirements and a wet summer have hindered construction work. Bucking the retail headwinds, the spokeswoman of the Sun Hung Kai-Henderson Land joint venture, Bonnie Ngan, said: “ We believe there will still be demand three years on.” She said the developers owned the land and their ultimate goal was to build a permanent shopping mall after the three-year lease of the pop-up complex expired . Ngan said proposals for a permanent shopping mall had already been submitted to the Town Planing Board for approval. According to the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s latest statistics, mainland tourist arrivals grew in July for the first time in 13 months . However, they spent less in the city, forking out an average of HK$7,105 per person in the first half of this year, a drop of 15.8 per cent compared with the same period last year, and way below the average HK$9,000 spent two years ago when mainland visitor numbers hit a record. This has forced the operator of the pop-up mall to reposition itself to cater to local residents in addition to shoppers across the border. Tony Yuen, executive director of the pop-up mall’s operator, Well Operation, said it expected 45 per cent of the shoppers would from Yuen Long, Tuen Mun, Sheung Shui, Fanling and other nearby locations. About 30 per cent would be Guangdong residents, while 25 per cent would be tourists. Yuen said a management meeting earlier this year had decided to add more local elements to the retail complex in the face of dwindling visitor numbers. “The process will be very fast once the foundations are done,” he said, adding that the typhoons and rains this summer had caused serious construction delays. The first batch of prefab shops would be completed this October with the official launch expected in the fourth quarter of this year. To lure more locals, lawmaker Wong said more local start-ups would be considered when tenants were selected later this year. Weekend creative bazaars, car fairs, small musical concerts, even fashion shows would also be hosted in the site, as a way to turn the former car park into a “family paradise”, he said. In addition to the cheaper and high quality offerings, the pop-up mall was also counting on historical attractions near the border to lure customers. Yuen said it would team up with mainland and local travel agencies to launch some one-day Northern New Territories tour packages. Yuen said the area was rich in historical resources, including Man Tin Cheung Park , which features the scholar-general of the Song Dynasty, who refused to yield to the Yuan Dynasty despite being captured and tortured, as well as Tung Shan Temple which was built 500 years ago with unique traditional architecture. According to a preliminary draft obtained by the Post , restaurant chain McDonald’s, Pacific Coffee and Fairwood, supermarket ParknShop, cosmetics retailer Sasa, and jeweller TSL are among the interested parties. The new plan was welcomed by San Tin resident Susie Wong, but she hoped the offerings would not be very expensive as residents in the neighbourhood did not have large incomes. “It’s a good thing for local residents to have a big shopping mall nearby,” Wong, 67, said, noting that people like her bought daily supplies at local grocery stores. A shop assistant at a pharmacy, near the construction site, said she was not worried the mall will steal business from her. “More people will come to the area once the shopping mall opens,” she said, adding her business had dwindled in the past year due to fewer mainland shoppers. Founder of local snack chain 759 Store, Lam Wai-chun said he had submitted a letter of intent to the mall’s operator a year ago, but had not received any updates since. He said he did not have much hope that the mall would boost sales given the current tourism headwinds. “It is important to echo policy calls as a businessman,” Lam said, “Maybe it will succeed, who knows?