We all know ‘The Shire’, the Sutherland Shire region, some 26kms from Sydney’s CBD. It’s one of Australia’s most affluent regions and development over the past decade-and-a-half or so, has been constant – modern and sophisticated residences and apartment buildings have mushroomed. But ‘retail property development’ has not kept pace. Bay Central, close to the centre of Cronulla and its beaches, is about to change the retail landscape of the region…
In shopping centre terms, what’s an ‘anchor’? The off the cuff response would most likely be ‘the major tenant’ or the ‘major retail drawcard’. However, in the case of Bay Central, it’s different – one might logically assert that the major drawcard isn’t a tenant; it’s not even a retailer!
We’re playing with words here; but the uniqueness of this centre’s positioning throws up all sorts of novel viewpoints.
The Sutherland Shire, commonly known as ‘The Shire’, is a local government area approximately 26km south of the Sydney CBD; it has a reputation for ‘insular localism’. The population is fiercely loyal to the area, regarding itself as somewhat privileged for living in a region characterised by rolling surf, outstanding beaches, all surrounded by pristine national parks.
This passionate loyalty, perhaps derived in part from the fact that The Shire is separated from the rest of Sydney by the Georges River; it means access is limited to two crossings – Tom Uglys and Taren Point bridges.
The Shire is also a popular tourist destination; attractions include Botany Bay, the Royal National Park, Port Hacking, Cronulla Beach and the foreshore.
It’s a region steeped in both ancient and modern history. Home to the Dharawal people, with solid archaeological evidence revealing settlement dating back at least 8,500 years; however, strong theories contest that occupation was well before that timeframe.
Kurnell, located on the north-eastern tip of the Shire, was the landing place of Captain Cook in April 1770 and the proposed site for the first settlement. Cook only stayed for a week and, during this time, one of his sailors, a Scotsman named Sutherland died of tuberculosis. In his honour, Cook named the northwest point of Kurnell ‘Sutherland Point’ – one theory (of two) as to how The Shire got its name.
And of course, one can’t conclude any description of Sutherland Shire without reference to ‘The Sharks’, a name familiar throughout Australia. One of the country’s most famous Rugby League teams, the ‘Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks’ is a veritable embodiment of the Shire and its population. ‘The Sharks’ and what the club entails transcends far more than simply being a Rugby League team.
In the abstract, it’s an expression of the community; it’s a bedrock that provides a gathering place, a community focal point, a venue for social interaction. It’s the beating heart of the Shire’s population with its world-class home ground, its stadium and thriving social club, housed in one magnificent complex close to Cronulla’s centre.
And where does this complex sit; this veritable iconic landmark, arguably the most famous piece of the Shire’s built environment? It’s positioned right in the middle of Woolooware Bay Town Centre, the massive mixed-use development that houses Bay Central – Sutherland Shire’s latest and most dynamic shopping centre.
What an anchor!
Of course, it’s not the case – as said earlier, we’re playing with words – a separate entity cannot anchor a shopping centre. The anchors of Bay Central are strong and powerful retailers but in this unique mixed-use development, the integration of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks Football Club cannot be ignored nor discounted when assessing positive influences in relation to Bay Central’s drawing power and its prime location. The Sharks may not be an anchor to Bay Central, but by being next door, fully integrated and connected, it’s an ‘adjacency’ of stunning proportions.
‘Integration’ is a key word here. As our industry evolves and we look at ways to expand our influence, mixed-use increasingly occupies a front of mind position; what we can ‘integrate’ into our shopping centre developments becomes a critical part of our thinking. Woolooware Bay Town Centre – the development in which Bay Central is an integral part – is a leader in this field; it is worth studying in terms of how it’s integrated not just many splendid components into its whole, but the community at large and how, in turn, it will influence their lifestyles.
Woolooware Bay Town Centre was originally a joint venture made in 2011 between Capital Bluestone and The Sharks. In 2019, The Sharks sold its holdings retaining the stadium, ground and club. Aoyuan International took a 75% stake with Capital Bluestone retaining 25% and it’s under Aoyuan’s direction and control that the Woolooware Bay Town Centre is now undergoing completion.
It’s a massive development with total project cost in the vicinity of $1 billion. Woolooware Bay Town Centre consists of some seven apartment blocks containing circa 900 apartments housing more than 2,500 people.
As described above, the iconic Sharks complex incorporates the ground and stadium, a totally revitalised club featuring a huge alfresco leisure and dining deck with panoramic views over the surrounding parks and bay. Quest, one of Australia’s largest and fastest growing hotel operators, has contracted for an apartment hotel which, according to management, will not only house the football fans but also the many visitors and those enjoying extended business trips to this thriving area. And then of course, we have Bay Central, an 18,000m2 shopping centre sitting at the heart of this stunning project.
Bay Central is arguably the Sutherland Shire’s new town centre and it is a shopping centre sorely needed by the surrounding population; Woolooware and Cronulla have grown exponentially during the past decade or so, but retail development has not kept pace with the expansion.
Within Bay Central’s Main Trade Area are 110,000 people; Sutherland Shire has a population of 220,000, which is forecast to reach 250,000 by 2031. It’s a wealthy population with a per capita income 10.1% higher than the Sydney average.
Population ‘retail spend’ is 10% higher than the Sydney average, which all adds up to the fact that Bay Central is located at the heart of one of the highest income areas in Australia with a total retail spend of about $1.8 billion a year. The Main Trade Area is a combination of the Primary and Secondary Sectors and both lie entirely within a 3-4km radius of Bay Central.
The centre enjoys a high-profile location at the intersection of Woolooware Road and Captain Cook Drive, a major arterial road connecting the peninsula to the Princes Highway and the Sydney CBD.
Westfield Miranda, one of Australia’s most successful Big Guns, takes the lion’s share of the Shire’s retail spend but the reality is that the region, compared to other major city urban areas across Australia, is ‘under-shopped’. Supermarket, convenience and specialty retail area per head of population in the Shire is significantly lower than in Sydney and other Australian cities, a statistic borne out by the fact that existing supermarkets and convenience stores trade at the highest levels – the Woolworths Supermarket at Caringbah for example (only minutes away), is generally considered as the supermarket with an extraordinary trading pedigree and a benchmark that few supermarkets in the country can outperform.
One experiences this shortage of shops when simply walking through the main retail street or mall in Cronulla. It’s packed, throbbing; vacancies are virtually non-existent. But it belongs to a past era. It offers present day retail presented in an anachronistic setting and is somewhat enigmatic – an extremely affluent population congregating in a 1950s style retail strip! Stroll down to the beachfront and the atmosphere changes dramatically. Restaurants are mostly full during opening hours. The area – Cronulla and Woolooware – has a somewhat ‘holiday’ feel; the apartment blocks have a ‘resort’ presentation, much of the built environment is relatively new and one is aware of the recent population and development expansion. It’s smart, sophisticated, modern and affluent. But the surrounding retail presentation doesn’t match it.
Bay Central responds directly to this lack of retail dynamism. It’s modern, slick, classy, buzzy, distinctive and sophisticated. Two major supermarkets – Woolworths and ALDI – will soon open flagship stores while Dan Murphy’s has a major presence. With a GLA of more than 18,000m2, it ranks at the top level of the Mini Guns sector. But it’s a Mini Gun of taste; its interior design is of the highest standards as the fit-out criteria demands sophisticated retail. The quality of this development is recognised by retailers.
Jon Savell, Woolworths General Manager – Property Development, told SCN : “The local community will soon have access to our latest supermarket offer. The retail stage of this development brings a truly convenient, one-stop shopping destination to the community with fresh food, specialty and services with superior amenity.” Note the phrase superior amenity.
Bay Central is the public’s view of this massive mixed-use development. ‘Quality and sophistication’ are key words in the presentation of the apartments to potential purchasers; the shopping centre reflects these high standards.
Leasing is well underway; already the centre is 80% committed with more than a year to go before opening. The local traders have embraced Bay Central with enthusiasm. Complementing the Woolworths and ALDI supermarkets is a full range fresh food Market Place as well as a butcher, seafood, fruit and vegetable grocer, chicken, baker etc. And here, as in the rest of the centre, quality fit-outs and superb presentation will set the scene. There’s a ‘health and wellness’ component with a linked dining precinct providing a full range of culinary choices. A casual ‘Eat Street’ concept features cafés and casual food options, which offer informal eating alongside ‘grab and go’ snacks. The selections extend right up to the more formal, including ‘top of the range’ restaurants in stunning locations. This smart restaurant precinct boasts alfresco areas with majestic north-facing views that take in the Foreshore Park and the bay, all of this offset by the backdrop of Sydney’s spectacular city skyline! The partially computer-generated photograph (above) doesn’t do it justice; the actuality is far more impressive!
The ‘integration’ of the various components is where this development triumphs. Of course, the occupants of the residential towers, the hotel guests, shoppers, daily visitors and tourists alike all ‘link in’ to the whole – the Sharks club, the grounds, the shopping centre, the restaurants – but more than that, visitors can’t fail to become part of the surrounds. And the surrounds are simply magnificent. The whole of the Woolooware Bay development, located less than five minutes’ drive from Cronulla’s beaches, is surrounded by a 15,000m2 foreshore of sweeping, idyllic parklands. Featuring five unique parks and reserves and some 2.4km of new pathways, this vast expanse of greenery will include shared pedestrian/cycle paths, a mangrove boardwalk, barbeque facilities, covered picnic areas, outdoor fitness zones and public art.
It’s a ‘lifestyle precinct’ in the true sense of the phrase and its sheer size – what it encompasses and comprises, its extensions and adjacencies, its significance in ‘community’ aspects – set the scene for Woolooware Bay to become the region’s new community focal point.
The ‘lifestyle’ aspects of the development will undoubtedly influence Bay Central’s tenant mix. The food and beverage components will be a combination of local favourites and high-profile chains. Fresh Food has already attracted the cream of the region and competition for space is keen.
Retail and Leasing Consultant, Simon McTigue, told SCN a sprinkling of fashion, homewares/interiors are high on his proposed tenant list, as the quality of the development is simply unmatched in the smaller centres operating in the Shire.
“It’s not just the lifestyle and leisure aspects of this whole development that sets us apart from the ‘in and out’ convenience centres on the peninsular, it’s also the presentation of the retail here, it’s quality and sophistication, that sets the tone for a more relaxed and thoughtful shopping experience,” he said. “It’s about delivering a considered retail mix that provides convenience, service and lifestyle and, of course, safe and secure parking. Our aspirations are that we will establish a new benchmark and challenge well-entrenched retail philosophies. To our community, we proudly say this is ‘your place on the bay’.”
His comments are self-evident. In this highly affluent neck of the woods, it’s a centre in a class of its own and, timewise, long overdue. In SCN’s view, Bay Central, in terms of MAT/m2 and Specialty MAT/m2, will become a veritable powerhouse in the Mini Guns sector of our industry and its performance in those fields will match some of the best Big Guns as well. Bay Central opens in February 2023 – watch this space…