Work has started on the refurbishment of Tower Centre's lobby and ground floor at 45 Queen St in the Auckland CBD in preparation for the first New Zealand flagship stores of Prada and Christian Dior.
Joining them at the street level of the 15-storey office tower, owned by AMP Capital Property Portfolio and sitting on the corner of Queen and Customs Sts, Swarovski will open a boutique shop to add to the strengthening of lower Queen St as a magnet for luxury brands.
The high-end product retailers will open their new stores in the second half of next year and join global fashion brands Louis Vuitton and Gucci in defining the bottom of Auckland's premier shopping strip.
Match Realty director Georgie Clatworthy says the agency has been instrumental in attracting the top luxury brands to the bottom of Queen St. It also secured the leases for Louis Vuitton and Gucci in the character Imperial Buildings at 48 Queen St.
The Imperial Buildings were partly refurbished and owned by AMP Capital until they were sold to Phillimore Properties several years ago. Last month the property won one of the Property Council's heritage property awards.
Clatworthy says there are always high-end retailers wanting to come in to New Zealand. "We could have leased the stores at the Imperial Buildings several times over and Prada was keen on taking space, but missed out. I have been working with the brand for seven years to secure them a Queen St spot for a flagship store."
She says the new flagship stores will go some way to appeasing shoppers hankering for luxury labels. "They have been flying to Sydney, Melbourne, London or Paris for the likes of Prada, Christian Dior, and Chanel."
Clatworthy and broker James Kermode, in a joint agency with Nilesh Patel from CB Richard Ellis, spent 12 months working with AMP Capital Property Portfolio's team to lock in the space for the new stores and negotiate the three leases.
"Prada and Christian Dior have concessions in DFS Galleria on Customs St and they have been waiting a significant amount of time for the right space to come up to open stores," says Clatworthy.
"Swarovski is relocating from the ANZ Centre building on the corner of Queen St and Victoria St. Around the globe it clusters with luxury brands and this is an ideal opportunity for the crystal specialist to continue this inclination. It is a reflection of where its customers come from as much as the making of a luxury retail area on Queen St. Victoria St is now more of a youth precinct."
Clatworthy says AMP Capital Property Portfolio is proactive with asset management and is always looking at opportunities. "It did a tremendous amount of background work to make this project happen when we approached them with Prada as a possible tenant.
"A series of lease expiries coming up in the tower made it possible for AMP Capital to draw up plans to redevelop the building's street level retail and ground floor podium into a new lobby with a cafe." As part of the redevelopment ANZ Bank will also open new premises on the corner of Queen and Customs Sts.
"AMP Capital Property Portfolio's philosophy is to manage and evolve assets for long-term sustainable performance and relevance.
"The position of the Tower Centre between DFS Galleria and the Louis Vuitton and Gucci stores meant the site lent itself to doing something exceptional within the context of the Auckland retail market," says Clatworthy.
The redevelopment plan by Ignite Architects draws on the historical significance of the site sitting on the edge of the harbour's original foreshore. Natural stone and detailed glasswork have been woven into the design and Clatworthy says AMP Capital has made good use of what was bland outdoor space.
The luxury brand stores are more than 300sq m each and externally the scale of the shopfronts will have an impact on Queen St. Kermode says Prada and Christian Dior each have more than 120sq m of facade to individually design their own shopfronts, creating an identity and branding that will add significant value to Queen St retail.
"Internally the stores will be of international standard with high quality fit outs, including specific items sourced from around the world. The most luxurious brands are clever in the way they structure product ranges and this will be reflected in these stores. The amount of money they are spending represents a significant investment in New Zealand."
During the refurbishment a new entrance lobby to the office building will be created between Christian Dior and Swarovski on Queen St. Escalators will take tenants and visitors up to the first floor that will have full height glass and views over the busy intersection. A cafe is included in the new design but an operator is yet to be found.
While Match specialises in helping international brands get a foothold in the New Zealand retail market, Clatworthy says the biggest challenge in dealing with high-end fashion houses is their preference for clustering together and then finding the 300sq m to 400sq m footprint they require for stores.
"It is difficult to piece together footprints this big at the bottom of Queen St to create a luxury precinct, but we are well on the way to creating a destination retail area, along with Britomart precinct, similar to those other major global cities have for wealthier shoppers."