CBD retail is far more volatile than suburban. Things happen quickly in the city centre; innovations occur there first. New trends, whether clothing and accessories, food and beverages, or even leisure activities, are first seen in cities and then they spread out to the suburbs.
I was in Melbourne last week and the city is firing. Every time I visit the laneways, a new bar, restaurant or café has opened and they’re all full, vibrant, extremely well fitted out and the service is first class. What I noticed this time was the increasing use of ‘secondary retail space’. Go down to the end of the laneways off Flinders Lane for example and you find basements in what was formerly unused space or storage areas, now converted into smart restaurants, whiskey bars and cafés. No doubt the rents are comparatively inexpensive but they’ll be a lot higher now than they were before!
Sydney has its own taste of it; The Baxter Inn whiskey bar is almost impossible to find if you didn’t know it and the same operator has the restaurant ‘Hubert’ in Bligh Street; both in basements but highly successful. Justin Hemmes has totally transformed Ash Street behind George but the Melbourne examples are more proliferous. Perhaps it’s a result of our ‘nanny-state’ licensing laws, brought in by politicians with no real love for the city, just for their own positions, enacting knee-jerk reactionary laws in the hope of soliciting a few votes. Mindless legislation, stifling a city; a real Pyrrhic solution!
Prior to Melbourne, I was in New York to look at Hudson Yards in the Chelsea district; again, a simply great re-generation with retail taking the box seat – there’s no way retail is dying in New York! In Brooklyn/Williamsburg there is a proliferation of smart bars, cafés and restaurants. Some fabulous fit-outs and interiors with the surprise of them all being Starbucks!
In the heart of the old ‘meatpacking district’ in Manhattan (corner of 9th Avenue and 15th Street) they’ve opened the largest US Starbucks with an outstanding fit-out. Inside the 23,000 square feet store, for the first time a full line cocktail bar. It’s worth seeing if you get there – and very close to Hudson Yards so you can do both on the same trip.
Our Cover Story is an apt one for the CBD Guns issue. We spent time with QIC compiling a story on Castle Towers Sydney, Watergardens and 80 Collins Street Melbourne. Although the two former are suburban regionals, at QIC they see them as ‘town centres’ and they really are. The growth at Castle Hill is extraordinary and in less than a decade and a half, the region has transformed itself from a sleepy suburb to a vibrant regional centre and the main street, which Castle Towers dominates, has the feel of a city centre.
Watergardens has established itself as the regional centre for the extended Taylors Lakes region in north west Melbourne. It’s a centre that’s more than doubled its size since opening in 1997 and will continue to grow and evolve as the natural town centre for the region. It’s a great story on how a ‘long-term’ vision has paid dividends in spades.
80 Collins Street is a fascinating development and will, on opening, revitalise a whole sector of the city that has languished for some years. As reported, QIC have sold it to Dexus so the retail – mostly leased prior to the sale – will come under the direction of the Dexus team, one of the best city retail outfits in the country.
We also have a couple of new features, ‘In the Pipeline’ as well as ‘Women in Development’ where we highlight current and upcoming retail projects across Australia and New Zealand and interview eight leading developers – all women – it’s compelling reading. All in all, a great issue. Enjoy!