Botany opening held back until October
AMP Asset Management will open the first stage of its Botany town centre development five months later than planned, so retailers can go quickly into a Christmas season instead of having to stock for half a winter.
AMPAM planned to open the first outlets in the centre in May, but will now open those doors in October.
Meanwhile, across the road, the bulk of Westland Ltd’s Hub site is on the market, though not publicly so. Westland director Mark Gunton took a “neither confirm nor deny” stance this week on the sale, wanting to focus his attention on relations within the group. But I understand the sale by private treaty has a 5 May deadline, with CB Richard Ellis as sole agents.
CB Richard Ellis director Paddy Callesen said he was unable to comment.
Mr Gunton and several other investors are in partnership at Westland with the Waipareira Trust, whose financial affairs have been put under the spotlight by Act leader Richard Prebble.
But long before that happened, The Hub was in trouble. Mr Gunton complained a year ago that AMP was holding up work on his site for competitive reasons. AMP and Foodstuffs’ property arm, which is selling the main 17.6ha Botany Downs site to AMP, argued that Westland’s Hub plans were nonconforming for the site.
They were also surprised that Mr Gunton had signed unconditionally to buy the land without checking the zoning properly and without getting his development further advanced.
However, Westland has sold a 1.76ha lot for $4 million to Progressive Enterprises, which will build a Foodtown to compete with Foodstuffs’ existing Pak N’ Save and second Botany Downs outlet, a 3500mÂ² New World. That leaves a site of about 5.1ha for Westland to sell, with a layout in place for an entertainment-based project.
Jitters on the Hub site can only have helped AMP in finding tenants for its project, which will run the gamut of retailing in a re-creation of village life.
AMPAM is using specialist firm Retail Solutions and Ash Hira of Colliers Jardine to put its tenancy programme together, but it is also working in a distinctly different fashion from the New Zealand standard.
Instead of finding a priced-right site, designing a rectangle and filling it, AMPAM began with lifestyle and town centre concepts, consulted locals and has consciously worked at all stages through a people-oriented process rather than an entirely retail-related, profit-maximising project.
Even so, the first patch of Botany to be developed will be heavily retail — large-format shops and most of the parking at the site’s northern end.
“Our critical thing now is to complete the earthworks in the next two to three weeks,” development manager Mike Geale (right) said this week.
Including the New World and a 7400mÂ² Farmers store, he has 26,000mÂ² of large tenancies leased, including some in the main shopping centre area. Others include Briscoes, Noel Leeming, Hill & Stewart, Bond & Bond and the Baby Factory.
“About 50% of the lettable area has been leased. We had a 7 March special retail launch and since then the response has been extraordinary.”
One tool to build that interest has been a CD digital drive-through of the site, “instead of having lots of models.”
The original research for AMP’s project was done in late 1998. Mr Geale said the constant reviewing was showing that the growth forecast for the immediate surrounding area and wider catchment was well short of actual. “The population growth forecast is about 30% lighter than we’re seeing. we were forecasting 210,000 living there by 2011. We think we’ll get there sooner.”
When AMP revealed the look of its $180 million project a year ago, Mr Geale said it would have a mix from the bulk format to smaller shops facing traditional-style streets, a town square and a covered mall, an entertainment segment and a supermarket, a fashion precinct, walkways and garden terrace offices.
The promotional material now says the centre is designed for people. “Walk through Botany for open-air shopping, relaxed restaurant and cafe-style dining, entertainment and the everyday necessities of life. Like any other town centre there are offices for professional services, banks and other services.”
As a place to relax as well as shop, Mr Geale said it would stay open much longer than most malls. “The success of Botany is going to be the services, the performance and the show the retailers put on. I know it sounds a bit glib, but we’re working with the retailers to make sure there’s a fit with the community’s needs.”
With plans for 136 specialty retail outlets, Mr Geale said a marketing manager had been appointed (Scott White, from Westfield), a retail manager who will be involved in leasing and management of the relationship between developer and retailers (Gale Wieland, from South Africa), and a Perth-based specialist food consultant (Hazel Williams, whose company is called The Business of Food).
“She is focusing on the mix planning, making sure we’ve got the range of menus and the right offering. She doesn’t design stores.”
The whole project should be fully open in about a year.