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Market drives centres’ design

 BLOATED with superannuation money, listed property trusts are leading the pack in shopping centre acquisition. However, with only limited investment opportunities available within Australia, particularly WA, more trust managers and retail property owners are looking at the redevelopment opportunities within their existing retail properties.

As a result, increasing numbers of Perth’s shopping centres are being slated for refurbishment and redevelopment.

Centro’s Mandurah Forum and Warwick Grove, Kilcor’s Victoria Park Marketplace and Hawaiian Management Group’s Claremont Shopping centre redevelopment are among the shopping centres for which refurbishment is being considered.

Hawaiian Management Claremont Shopping Centre project coordinator Tony Davis said refurbishment of a shopping centre was more difficult than developing a shopping centre on a green field site.

“Refurbishment is harder because you have to work around the existing structure and retailers,” he said.

“The lack of opportunity in retail investments is forcing people to look hard at the full utilisation of their existing sites.”

Mr Davis said older shopping centres were built with a basic layout, for example with a supermarket down one end and a discount department store at the other, and with speciality stores in between.

“People are now having to look at the more difficult options to get the site’s full utilisation,” he said.

Market research is essential in determining the right shopping centre product for a region, helping determine the look, the style and retail mix of a shopping centre development or redevelopment. 

Hawaiian Management engaged a market research company to ensure that its Claremont Shopping Centre redevelopment was delivering the correct product to the area.

Mr Davis said market research revealed that the community wanted its shopping experience in Claremont to be a personal experience, it wanted the area to remain an exclusive fashion precinct, and it did not want it to be overrun by large multinational chains.

Drawing on this information, architects tried to reduce the traditional monolithic shopping centre appearance with a number of techniques, including breaking up the building mass into smaller components and by having retail opening out onto surrounding streets on all four sides of the centre.

Despite these attempts to minimise the development scale, Hawaiian Management has run into problems securing passage of its shopping redevelopment application in Claremont and is going to the Town Planning Appeals Tribunal in August. 

 “We are not trying to duplicate a Carousel or disrupt what is there in Claremont,” Mr Davis said.

“Most people see that Claremont needs redevelopment work.”

Spowers Architects manager projects Dirk Collins said currently there was more refurbishment work around than there was new shopping centre work.

Mr Collins said market research was critical to shopping centre design and development.

“Market research is the key to it and indicates what the needs are for a particular area,” he said.

“Successful shopping centres are those that cater for the needs of an area’s demographic and economic profile.”

Mr Collins said there was a growing trend in supermarket redevelopment and refurbishment to blur the distinction between inside environment and the outside environment, and to try and make the shopping experience more comfortable and less disorientating.

“Rather than being a large artificial environment there is a trend to use the outside environment more,” he said.

Among the techniques used to create this effect are the greater use of skylights, building wall cut-outs, the location of food courts outside and the discretionary use of the centre’s air-conditioning.

Mr Collins said larger supermarket chains, such as Coles and Woolworths, were currently working to create stores that required around 1500 square metres of space so that they could operate in smaller centres in more urban areas.

He said these smaller versions of the major chains would sell more pre-prepared food and followed the example set in Sydney and Melbourne for the past three or four years.

Another east coast trend is for shopping centres to swell into suburbs in their own rights. Examples of this include Sydney’s Warringah Mall, which is twice the size of Karrinyup shopping centre, and Melbourne’s Knox City.

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