Mirvac retail has already launched its new branding – ‘Experience Retail, by Mirvac’. It has just opened its two latest projects, Broadway Sydney and Tramsheds. Both are leading edge retail developments and are true to the brand. Both are real retail experiences!
It’s a pity that superlatives are overused these days because, even when they are used appropriately now, their effect is lessened. Mirvac have two developments that have come on stream since our last edition and both warrant the full force of superlatives!
Our cover story on Mirvac in the August edition focused on the company’s branding, what was behind it, how it had evolved and the links to the adoption of the ‘urban strategy’ that was at the core of the whole exercise. That produced the branding ‘Experience retail – by Mirvac’, timed to be launched at the opening of their two latest projects.
Broadway opened on August 18; well, it had never closed, but a portion of it – Level 2 – had been under redevelopment. Tramsheds then opened September 22.
Prior to Mirvac’s involvement, Broadway hadn’t commanded much attention. Formerly a Grace Bros store, it was redeveloped by the Walker Corporation who opened it in 1998.
Mirvac purchased Broadway in 2007 and, within a year, it had reached the Number 2 spot on the Big Guns MAT/m2 ladder and stayed there until 2013 when it took over first place from Westfield Bondi Junction. It’s maintained its Number 1 position ever since, growing productivity by a massive 32% in the last three years, which not only makes it the best-performing centre in Australia, but also one of the best in the world. There aren’t many centres on the global scene that turn over close to $14,000 a square metre!
The latest development – Level 2 – illustrates in the micro sense, how Mirvac has achieved so much with the centre in the macro sense. It’s a textbook case of matching the mix with the market and utilising every square metre of the centre to maximise its performance.
What makes it a textbook case is that the market at Broadway Sydney is probably one of the most diverse in Australia. For a start, you’ve got a broad middle class who live in the adjoining suburbs: Glebe, Ultimo, Pyrmont, Chippendale, Camperdown, Forest Lodge. Yet in Glebe and several of the other suburbs, are multi-million-dollar homes; Ultimo and Pyrmont have some of the finest and most expensive apartment developments in Australia. Add to that the whole area is inner-city high-density residential stuff, so there’s low-cost housing, commission homes, and they’re not exceptions.
Broadway is within spitting distance of both the University of Sydney and UTS so you’ve got a multitude of students from Australia as well as all parts of Asia and they’re all customers at Broadway. Add to all that, it’s not a huge centre – in fact at just over 50,000m2, it only just makes the Big Gun category.
So how do you tenant that? What drives the tenancy mix? Do you cater for a section of the market and focus, or do you go for all of it? You could be forgiven for specialising, or for trying to cater to two or three of the different groups or socio-economic compositions, but that’s not what Mirvac is about here. Before we focus on the new Level 2, let’s look at the centre in its entirety to get a feel for how it responds to the market.
For the basics it’s got two supermarkets, Coles and Aldi, supported by a large Harris Farm Markets on the Ground and Lower Ground Floors. Both Kmart and Target are there as are Harvey Norman, JB Hi Fi and a large Priceline. Services – the banks, dentists, optometrists, travel agents et al – are there in abundance and they all trade like there’s no tomorrow.
In the fashion stakes it could be Pitt Street Mall. The major players – the likes of Witchery, Sportsgirl, General Pants, Just Jeans, Peter Alexander, French Connection, Cotton On, Portmans, Nine West, Rebel and Nike – are there. But then so is David Lawrence and Marcs and you’ve got MAC Cosmetics, Ella Bache and L’Occitane; and to top that off, there’s a full-size Apple store, which never seems to be anything other than cracking at the seams in regards to numbers in the shop.
So what do you do with a brand new level?
What they’ve done is to embrace the ‘urban’ connotations inside the centre. This is a prime, perhaps the prime, example of what the urban scene, retail-wise, is all about. It’s a truly urban context to which Mirvac hasn’t just paid lip service but instead they’ve embraced it, let it wash over them, let it drive them, and the result is phenomenal.
The new Level 2 is superb and it’s not just the mix, but the architecture, the interior design, the layout, the precincts, the adjacencies, the embellishments and the shopfronts that all take Broadway to another dimension; yes, it’s that good!
It’s a paradox in fact: the design and presentation aren’t really of the shopping centre vernacular, with the ‘urban’ focus creating no single theme but a collection of concepts and contexts. There’s no single tenancy mix either; it’s not fashion and it’s not food – it’s a fusion of both! And that’s not all.
Level 2 is described as having four precincts or zones, and you don’t read them singularly but as part of an urban scene. There’s a fashion High Street, a laneway, an urban room and a restaurant zone but they all blend in with each other and it makes the whole space such a vibrant, pulsating and truly ‘happening’ place.
Level 2 houses the Hoyts Lux cinema complex; leave the cinema and you could be outside on a bustling street in the centre of the city. On leaving the cinema precinct you pass Nandos then Grill’d and Zeus restaurant is on your left; it’s the first of a restaurant collection with Mr Wu, Sushi Hon and a 450m2 Bondi Pizza. All the restaurants have ‘alfresco’ areas, and you wouldn’t think you’re sitting in a shopping centre, and there’s another paradox: of course you are, but it feels like you’re outside and yet you know you’re not. They’ve created an urban setting and it’s not just cosmetic – they’ve really pulled it off.
Sit in the alfresco area of the restaurants and look out, and you’ll see the entrance to JB HiFi next door to Smiggle, which in turn, is flanked on the other side by Paul Dane. There’s no rhyme or reason here – it’s as if multiple owners have leased shops without reference to adjacencies, and it gets better as you reach Athletes Foot, Cotton On, Nike and General Pants.
A full-size H&M could be said to ‘anchor’ the level, but then why not the Hoyts Cinema complex? The reality is that this level has no anchor; the whole is the anchor in much the same way as nothing anchors Pitt Street Mall but the mall itself! At the risk of being repetitive, it’s a truly urban space.
Sephora has a 400m2 outlet next to H&M’s entrance, with a 225m2 Seed on the other side. Napoleon Perdis occupies a centre kiosk between the two, with Victoria’s Secret and Calvin Klein adjacent. So it’s food, fashion, beauty; and then the rest begins!
The fast food, in a word, is stunning. A run comprising Din Tai Fung, Bun Me, Eat Istanbul, Mumbai Express, lIlmi, Guzman y Gomez and Schnitz has these places’ seating areas separated from the counter so there’s a space between the two where customers pass or stop to choose. It’s a design and effect reminiscent of a Melbourne laneway and functions in a similar manner.
In the centre of the level is the ‘urban room’. It’s a blending of food and beverage kiosks and specialty kiosks, with a choice of seating styles allowing for a variety of users and group sizes, such as seating pods where people can relax and experience the surrounds. And with Passiontree Velvet, Soul Origin, Hero Sushi, Gelato Heaven to name but a few, what a place to relax and soak up the ambience.
The Mirvac team have really pulled off this ‘urban space’ at Broadway. Everyone in the industry should see it because it has lessons for all. They haven’t compromised and the result is you just want to walk it.
Very clever light screening frames and column treatments mean one gets enticing glimpses of the laneway; you’re motivated to explore and it’s the same with the restaurant zone, the urban room and the fashion High Street. Level 2’s success is evidenced by its popularity; it’s chock full and it’s going to continue that way.
They’ve pulled it off to such an extent that their next consideration will have to be trading hours. This level would trade until midnight easily; on weekends it could trade till two in the morning. It’s an urban space, it’s great retail and people are flocking there to ‘experience it’.
You might think that ‘Experience retail – by Mirvac’, is demonstrated to the maximum at Broadway. Think again!
Broadway Sydney is a great retail experience but in reality, it’s the urban ambience that dominates, even though it’s a purely retail setting. Tramsheds Harold Park, on the other hand, is a total retail experience. It’s got its fundamentals in food and beverage, but the whole thing is experiential – even the building.
To take on something like Tramsheds – no, let’s rephrase that because there’s nothing like Tramsheds! – to take on Tramsheds you’ve really got to know what retail development is all about. In fact it’s more than that; to take on Tramsheds, you’ve really got to know you’re one of the best at the game with one of the best teams around, otherwise you wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot barge pole.
Mirvac Residential, as we all know, won the contract to develop the Harold Park site at Sydney’s Forest Lodge and bordering the inner-west suburb of Glebe. The site contained an old building, formerly the Rozelle Tram Depot that opened in 1904. It’s been dilapidated from the 1950s but it’s a truly magnificent structure, a mixture of Federation and Queen Anne styles. At its peak, the Depot serviced some 200 trams employing about 650 people. It was a condition of the DA that the tramsheds be restored.
In the normal run of things, that restoration could well have resulted in the Tramsheds ending up as some sort of quasi museum, a film studio perhaps, a public space for community gatherings, a collection of community art galleries or some such ‘passive’ usage. The view would be taken that the restoration was somewhat secondary to the major development, and simply a cost of doing business. Not so at Mirvac. Enter Mirvac Retail!
In the sixty-odd years since Tramsheds has been derelict, how many cars have driven past the site of the former Harold Park trotting stadium, with the occupants totally unaware of Tramsheds tucked in just 100 metres or so from the road? Probably millions; why would you notice a partially hidden derelict building?
You’ll notice it now!
It’s a superb restoration revealing a magnificent structure of solid brick with a saw-tooth glass roof. Built at the turn of the 20th century, it was constructed by skilled tradesmen who defined themselves by, and who took pride in, the quality of their workmanship. The detailing is phenomenal; the reveals, the copings, the ornamental brick column treatments, the arches, the lintels, are all, quite simply, of a wondrous age of craftsmanship.
That pride has not been lost here, and nor has the craftsmanship – it’s here in spades amongst the development and contracting teams that have worked on the restoration. They’ve transformed a derelict structure, that in its heyday was enjoyed exclusively by those who worked there, into a communal gathering place that can be enjoyed and appreciated by the public at large.
Inside this iconic edifice is not just a bunch of shops but a collection of food retailers and amenity providers linked by their passion, skill and commitment to their product, to those who first constructed their new place of business and to those who’ve restored and rescued it.
The leasing team has brought together a collection of the most outstanding providores, restaurateurs and food purveyors, the likes of which has not been seen in this city before. They’ve gone into the marketplace and collected a bevy of ‘non-shopping centre’ tenants with reputations second to none.
Garçon is the premier coffee venue to boutique roasters, Little Marionette. Tokyo Bird from Surry Hills takes a Japanese restaurant and Whiskey Bar while the people behind ‘A Tavola’ in Bondi, Surry Hills and Darlinghurst open ‘Flour Eggs Water’, a fresh pasta bar.
‘Fish & Co’, famous on the inner-city scene for their sustainable fresh fish and fish cafe, relocate their operation from Annandale while ‘Bekya Middle Eastern Kitchen’ are set to open their flagship outlet.
There’s a bespoke supermarket, ‘Supermart’, championing local suppliers and fresh produce in a stunning fit-out featuring extensive wood interiors.
‘Sir Chapel’ is a bistro and brewery operated by the people behind Sourdough Bakery and Fat Duck while DUST, the resident bakery, will not only make and bake bread on the premises in full view of the customers but they mill their own flour too; it begins with wheat and ends up bread and all in full view!
Restaurant, bar and butchery ‘Butcher and the Farmer’, led by Jared Ingersoll, focuses on traceability from ‘paddock to plate’ The line between fresh food purchasing for home consumption and eating on the premises is blurred; you can do either. This concept is carried through to many of the outlets with the food and dining precinct focused on ‘Connecting People to Providores’.
Another unique feature is ‘Artisan Lane’, a flexible space running through the centre of the development. It’s a space with its own kitchen and dining tables to be used for short-term food activations, functions, pop-up dining concepts and special events by new and permanent tenants. It will be where guest chefs will make ‘star appearances’, a space for people to hire for a party, celebration or an organised ‘gourmet evening’.
Tramsheds is a 6,500m2 development incorporating a gym, wine and liquor, supermarket, fresh food, cafés and restaurants, a medical centre, and some services. It’s a short walk across the gardens to the Jubilee Park Light Rail Station connecting to the city. A Community Room with a 250-person capacity is on an upper level with commanding views of the European-inspired food hall below.
This isn’t ‘shopping’ or ‘going out to eat’; this is an experience. It’s been created by a Mirvac team that has shared a vision with some of the best food operations in the city. This isn’t just a superb leasing exercise; it’s a project that has brought in a whole range of players with expertise in development management, restoration, construction, interior décor, landscaping and myriad trades. It’s a team with a leadership that has infected each and every one of them with a passion to produce a truly exceptional project.
The Mirvac residents may think they’ve got a unique facility on their doorstep but if they think it’s theirs, they’ll need to think again. They are going to have to share it with the people of Glebe, Annandale, Leichhardt, Balmain… and when the word gets out, the rest of Sydney.
It’s so outstanding that it’s bound to get on the tourist routes as well!
Both projects have taken the high ground. At Broadway, Mirvac has taken a normal shopping centre level and transformed it into a truly urban setting. At Tramsheds they’ve created a whole new retail concept. Both projects are experiential. ‘Experience retail, by Mirvac’, has metamorphosed!