The evolution of Northbridge has led to a changing of the guard when it comes to the focal point of the inner-city entertainment neighbourhood, according to local property experts.
Jim Tsagalis, managing director of retail property firm Lease Equity, said the epicentre of Northbridge had moved from the corner of James and Lake streets thanks to the newly revamped lower end of William Street.
Mr Tsagalis said that after progressive redevelopment of the southern end of William Street, facilitated by the East Perth Redevelopment Authority and City of Perth and funded by the state government, it was emerging as Perth’s version of Sydney’s Oxford Street.
“I think it is at least a 10-year journey or longer but it has the hallmarks of it, it is a promenade into the city, it is a good link, good amenities and great built forms. For all of those reasons, it has great opportunity,” he said.
Mr Tsagalis said William Street’s mix of large sites, such as the Brass Monkey, which he argued drove traffic to the area, with small retail sites encouraged day and night trade which led to growing rent.
“When you have bigger barn-type operations it is more difficult for rent growth, because the demand to be near those things tends to be late at night, so the sorts of things that work in that window are things like kebab shops and fast food,” he said.
“That will limit growth, but there is the screen that the council has put in and that is good but I think there needs to be more quality cafes going in that strip.”
James Limnios, chief executive of inner-city focused Limnios Property Group, chose to liken William Street to one of Melbourne’s favourite retail strips.
Mr Limnios said discussions were being held to create a two-way flow on William Street and if that went ahead, “it will become a similar street to, say, Chapel Street in Melbourne”.
“What has happened there (William Street) is magnificent for the area, it has created a high street for Northbridge,” he said.
Mr Tsagalis predicts the revamp of William Street’s heritage buildings as part of the $17 million upgrade of the Perth Cultural Centre will have some effect over the next 6 to 12 months on demand and rent rates in the area.
He said the highest rents were about $700 per square metre.
Mr Limnios said he expected rates were more commonly at the $550/sqm mark when it came to Northbridge’s prime retail space, compared to two years ago when they were between $200 and $250.
Perth’s top-end retail strip, King Street, attracts rents as high as $4000/sqm.
Mr Tsagalis said the Perth City Link development, which would sink the railway line and link the city and Northbridge with public, commercial, residential and retail space, would increase the demand and density in the area.
He said residential development in that area would have a greater impact on the surrounding retail areas but he was not certain commercial development would be viable there given the recent growth in commercial developments at the eastern end of Northbridge.
Mr Tsagalis said the eastern end, along Newcastle Street toward Stirling Street, was more suitable to service industries like accountants over pure retail, given the access to parking and other amenities in the area.