Retail & mixed use

Avalon Alpharetta, Georgia USA

Tony Quinn has been looking at retail and mixed-use projects and seems surprised to find out we do it better here than overseas. Didn’t surprise us at all!

I am currently undertaking research for several retail and mixed-use projects in order to gather precedent imagery. It’s not an uncommon typology these days, but casting my net widely, it has become obvious how well we do it here in Australia and, to my surprise, how poorly they do it overseas – especially in the US.

Recent US award-winners from the ICSC in 2016 are repeats of typologies of 10 to 15 years ago; they haven’t moved with the times. See, by way of example, the new development known as the Avalon Alpharetta in Georgia with its neoclassical fake facadism, town square and ice rink. While it’s OK, it’s not the picture of innovation, nor one I would rush to visit on some study tour as a must-see. It comes as some surprise that it won a gold award for New Developments in the October 2016 award ceremony.

But have faith: all is not lost in the ICSC’S Asia Pacific Awards 2016. Sydney’s East Village took home the gold gong for best new development. So in a salute to our industry, I will share what I think are some good examples of the retail mixed-use development typology here in Australia.

East Village in Zetland’s retail ground plane incorporates a Coles supermarket, array of 50 specialty shops, restaurants, Virgin Active gym and commercial space housing Audi Australia’s headquarters and a Montessori school. All this is topped off with four levels of apartments and a landscaped podium. The retail is very much of urban market style approach with concrete-coloured floors, timber-beamed ceiling and black subway tiles. It has basement car parking and commercial space on the first floor, creating a successful blend of residential, commercial and retail in an urban village setting. Developed by Payce, the lower stratum part of the development has now been on-sold to Mirvac.

Another fine example of this genre is Melbourne’s Coles Brighton development known as 380 Degrees. The project contains a full-line Coles supermarket, specialty shops with 95 upper-level apartments. The building programme has a clear language, with the retail use at street level characterised by larger-scale elements with the upper levels smaller and more articulated. Large glazed openings and clearly defined entries reinforce the architectural intent. Sliding perforated metal screens on the upper residential levels create smaller elements allowing the building’s use to be defined.

Also in Melbourne is another fine example at Highett anchored by a Woolworths supermarket, which won Best Mixed-use Development 2015 at the National PCA Innovation and Excellence Awards. It has also won UDIA, Urban Taskforce and Main Street Australia awards. Located along the Highett Road shopping strip, the development has provided renewed vitality to a declining main street. It contains a supermarket, 17 specialty shops at ground level with 130 apartments over three levels above, in a fine example of how well-designed development can add to its surroundings.

At Springvale Town Centre, Dandenong a new mixed-use development has been constructed as three separate buildings, providing a link between three shopping centres. At street level there are 41 specialty shops opening to the street or town square. The largest of the three buildings rises six storeys and provides two-level one- and two-bedroom townhouses as well as a six-level carpark for the development and surrounding commercial facilities.

In the Sydney suburb of Cammeray is the next project worthy of mention, owned by Stockland. Named Cammeray Square, it’s a development of 39 luxury apartments, shops, cafes and restaurants just eight minutes from the CBD. The ground-floor retail is topped by three levels of residential above, with an open internal landscaped piazza featuring public sculpture and seating areas. It anchors the southern end of Cammeray’s retail strip. There are four buildings sensitively arranged around the piazza and, as well as the shops, a medical and child care centre are provided in the development.

Another Sydney example is the Casba at Waterloo, with its multitude of awards including 2015 Institute of Architects Multi Residential Award, UDIA NSW President’s Award and World Architecture Finalist for 2015. Set in the context of surrounding warehouses south of the city, the rough and tactile materials of raw concrete and brick evoke the heritage of the site and its post-industrial setting. Centred around an open courtyard, the ground-floor commercial space and showrooms are skilfully separated from the apartments above with landscaped roofs allowing maximum privacy.

The courtyard is full of sunlight, water and trees and is connected via a colonnade linking Danks and Phillip Streets to create an urban connection through the site. The link has a sense of street, allowing clear wayfinding and adding to the passing traffic – a key ingredient in successful retail development.These projects have mastered a challenging development genre and showcase well-designed Australian developments equal to, if not better than, those overseas.


About the author

Tony Quinn

Tony Quinn is a Principal Architect at Hames Sharley, a national multi-award winning design practice specialising in architecture, interior design, urban design and planning. Tony has over 25 years’ experience within the retail and mixed use sectors, extending across master planning and design. Prior to joining Hames Sharley, Tony has directed award winning projects such as the Orion Springfield Queensland (mixed use) and Sovereign Hills Town Centre (mixed use). Tony also worked on projects such as No. 1 Martin Place (Sydney GPO), Grace Bros Broadway and Sydney Central Plaza redevelopments.

Tony is a member of the Australian Institute of Architects, Large Practice Committee (AIA) and International Council of Shopping Centres and is an active member of the Property Industry Foundation, as a former board member and chair of the Regatta committee.

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