Options for Downtown mall wide open

By Anne Gibson

A hotel, office tower or more shops could be on the drawing board for Westfield NZ's most under-valued mall in the heart of Auckland's CBD.

Justin Lynch, deputy director of Westfield NZ, said a range of options were being explored for the Downtown centre in the block between Customs St East, Albert St and Queen Elizabeth Square at the foot of Queen St.

Westfield is by far the country's largest mall owner, controlling 11 major shopping centres valued at $2.8 billion.

Lynch played down speculation that Westfield might sell the $73.2 million Downtown mall or its new Nuffield St precinct in Newmarket. Despite the conjecture, Lynch said the business had no plans to sell either asset or any of the 10 other shopping centres it owns in New Zealand.

"We have no specific plans for Downtown but there are a range of possible options down there. It's considered potentially under-valued and under-developed."

The chance of building a large office tower, hotel or more shops on the site were "all feasible" but nothing was definite yet.

"We're evaluating that, as we are with all our other centres all the time," he said.

He cited development at Westfield's new Albany mall, expansion at Manukau, Chartwell in Hamilton and 277 in Newmarket as just some of the projects under way or planned.

Westfield has begun work on a $200 million mega-centre at Albany which will have more than 100 specialty stores, 2000 carparks, a Farmers, Kmart, New World and SkyCity multiplex cinema centre.

The company is promoting that new centre as being in the heart of an area inhabited by many wealthy, white young people.

Albany's estimated total trade area has about 258,200 residents, which represents about 19 per cent of Auckland's population, Westfield says in its leasing document.

"With average per capita income in the total trade area 20 per cent above the New Zealand per capita average and 9 per cent above the Auckland average, Albany's demographics are indeed highly desirable," the company says.

"Average household income in the primary trade area at $74,460 per annum is 17 per cent above the Auckland average. With average household size ... below that of the Auckland average household size, there are fewer people in the household yet with more income.

"Europeans as an ethnic group feature strongly in the Albany main trade area at 83.6 per cent, well above the Auckland average of 62.3 per cent. The age distribution is fairly consistent with the Auckland average with a slight skew to the 40 to 59 age group," the mall owner says.

Westfield completed projects worth A$2 billion in the United States, Australia and New Zealand last year.

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