Sylvia Park will be by far New Zealand's biggest mall when it opens its expanded shopping centre space this month, adding an extra 2ha of indoor floor area and 57 new shops in its $277 million project.
The Herald was invited for the first look inside The Galleria, an upstairs glazed-roof addition to the serpentine temple to retail therapy opening before the Christmas season.
Linda Trainer, Kiwi Property's general manager of asset management, said the Mt Wellington centre would have 12ha of indoor floor space after the October 15 opening of most of the new Galleria shops - an upstairs area debuting Farmers and French cosmetics giant Sephora at the suburban mall.
Hamilton's The Base is 81,000sq m and Christchurch's Westfield Riccarton is 54,000sq m but all our malls pale in comparison to Melbourne's regional Chadstone with 22ha or 220,000sq m of floorspace.
Trainer said with the new addition, Sylvia Park would be 104,000sq m, or 10ha, but combining the bulk retail Sylvia Park Lifestyle across the Mt Wellington Highway adds a further 16,600sq m.
All up, Sylvia Park's mall and lifestyle centre now stands at 120,600sq m, or 12ha, of lettable floor area, following completion of the contract won by Naylor Love.
The centre also sets New Zealand's record for having the most carparks: 5000, "and they're all free", Trainer said.
"What's encouraging is the investment by retailers in this Covid environment," she said of the challenging retail environment.
"Ten of New Zealand's favourite retail brands are already at Sylvia Park," she said, citing Farmers, Kmart, The Warehouse, Kathmandu, Torpedo7, Hallensteins, MacPac, H&M, Zara and Country Road.
Three escalators will take shoppers to level one: an existing escalator towards the central outdoor atrium has been flipped for better pedestrian flow, a new escalator has been built at the motorway end of the mall and the new 8100sq m Farmers is the only store so far with its own internal escalator.
More than 200 contractors are on the site, with much of the Galleria looking far from finished: glass shopfronts are being installed, scissor lifts are out in force, lights are being hung, painters, plumbers, air conditioning specialists, tilers and electricians are working and orange plastic bollards bar entry to the centre of the pedestrian hub.
The Galleria is around 300m long at the mall which is nearly 1km end-to-end of walkable shopping space, mirroring traditional main streets with shops on both sides. Plywood still covers Galleria tiled floors for protection until completion.
New Galleria bathrooms have artists' work on display in multi-coloured ceiling and wall features. A parents' room has a glassed-in secure play area and private areas have been created for families.
The new two-level Farmers at the Southern Motorway or Warehouse end appears to be in the most advanced state of completion: all walls, floors and ceilings are finished and fitted out, lighting is installed and on, shelves are stacked with clothing and cosmetics and staff are out in force.
"Farmers is so much more advanced because there's a lot of stock that has to come in and they want to be at their best on opening. They're a very seasoned, professional retailer," Trainer said.
H&M will shift from its prominent two-level corner site at the outdoor hub of the mall to the northern end of the Galleria, near new outlets for Under Armour, General Pants, Mi Piaci and Dangerfield.
Plywood and mesh dust, noise and visual barriers mean shoppers on the ground floor know little of the work upstairs and Trainer said that was deliberate: "Look! People are oblivious to what's happening" she said from the Galleria.
A 400-seat dining area, The Terrace, looks out to the west and Hamlin's Hill. Signage is up for Hello Mister, Mester Bao, Poke House, Biang Biang and Wucha.
Trainer said the majority of 57 new shops would open on October 15 and the remainder were scheduled to open before Christmas. By then, 250 stores will trade from the expanded mall.
In July, Kiwi released its sales data for June, the first full month of trading since New Zealand exited lockdown. Adjusted sales at the company's shopping centre portfolio were up 7.5 per cent on the same period last year, while total June sales increased 0.5 per cent. Sylvia Park, The Base and Palmerston North's The Plaza in Palmerston recorded strong
sales in the month.
Kiwi is trading around $1.07, down from $1.45 in March.