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Filling the gap left by failed retailer

CONTINGENCY plans to fill two floors of Saracen Properties’ $45 million Murray Street retail development, in the likely absence of collapsed retailer Harris Scarfe, are well under way and promise to introduce a host of new retailers to the popular city mall.

Saracen Properties director Luke Saraceni said he was in negotiations with a number of national and international retailers and that, if these were finalised, the building would be 100 per cent leased.

The five-storey building consists of a basement level, a ground floor and three upper levels.

Mr Saraceni said the first and second floors, to which Harris Scarfe had committed, would be taken up by a retail arcade and a fitness centre.

An extension of the Forest Chase walkway to the development on both the Wellington Street and Murray Street fronts was now on the drawing board, Mr Saraceni said.

“We would like the walkway to continue to our store and then run through the middle of our building, creating a small arcade situation, and then straight to David Jones,” he said.

Mr Saraceni said he was in negotiations with a major national retailer to take up a substantial amount of the first or second floor.

Part of the second floor looks to be occupied by international chain health club Healthlands, which already is a confirmed tenant, while the remainder of the second and the whole third floor is likely to be leased by a government agency.

And while the new plans hinge on the uncertain future of the Adelaide-based Harris Scarfe, Mr Saraceni said he would not necessarily welcome back Australia’s third-biggest retailer with open arms

“It really depends on who buys Harris Scarfe and their plans,” he said.

Investment bank Hindal Corporate is handling the sale of the failed 35-store retailer and is reported to be in discussions with three parties, one of which is believed to be a Perth syndicate headed by Toorak Hold-ings.

Mr Saraceni declined to comment on rumours linking Saracen Properties to the Perth syndicate but said even if the local party was successful, there were no guarantees Harris Scarfe would be part of the Murray Street development.

An announcement of the successful bid is not expected for weeks, following an indefinite extension of the June 30 sale deadline.

Receiver-managers Ferrier Hodgson said the deadline had been ambitious and that, due to the significant size of the transaction, it was not in the interests of any stakeholder to rush it.

The sale price of Harris Scarfe has been estimated at between $90 and $110 million, with other contenders rumoured to be the Melbourne-based Dimmey’s discount retail chain and a Melbourne syndicate involving Trescowthick family, which owned 46 per cent of Harris Scarfe.

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