NorthWest, a vast new internal 100-shop $160 million mall in Auckland, opens this morning.
The mall is at the new 56ha Westgate Town Centre where a Mitre 10 and Pak'nSave supermarket have already opened nearby.
Nearly half a million Aucklanders live within a 15-minute drive of NorthWest which is off Fred Taylor Dr and will have one of New Zealand's biggest Farmers, as well as a Countdown, banks and a food court.
The mall was developed by an NZX listed business which was called DNZ Property Fund but has just been renamed Stride Property.
It is 2.7ha of internal floorspace and a third of a kilometre long, equivalent to the size of four rugby fields.
DNZ Property Fund chief executive Peter Alexander said the 100-shop NorthWest Shopping Centre would be bigger than Newmarket's 277 but slightly smaller than LynnMall, built on the city's northwestern outskirts, across Fred Taylor Drive from the existing Westgate shopping centre.
The new cylinder-shaped, $160 million building is anchored by a Countdown at one end and a Farmers at the other.
Its two-level Farmers will also be one of New Zealand's biggest, at 8000sq m or nearly one hectare, the size of a large supermarket and with internal mall access as well as external centre access from the corner of Maki St and Tawhia Drive. Fashion, cosmetics and other items will be sold from the ground floor and a homeware area is being stocked on level one, with escalators in between.
Alexander said his business aimed to reflect the west architecturally, particularly its sand and dappled light in flooring, wall and ceiling finishes. The central internal hall is up to 7m high and partly clad in wood slats.
A vast parents' room of 150sq m has been created with its own mini-creche: a play area with glazed walls. Opposite that, five separate private infant-feeding areas have been built, designed to give people privacy, and Alexander said a flat-screen TV would be installed
"Materials were carefully chosen with wall and floor tiles illustrating black washed-up sand and a concrete rendered wall providing an outdoor feel featuring an apple tree. This is in keeping with the design themes of west coast beaches and horticulture used throughout the centre," Alexander said.
The room is equipped for young babies, toddlers and their carers and is separate from the ladies' toilets.
In a separate planned new development yet to start, a further 7000sq m will be built opposite the new mall, across Maki St. That will also have fashion and general retail shops.
Shops outside the Countdown have a service focus and include ANZ, BNZ, Westpac, Vodafone and Rodney Wayne.
Further towards the centre, shops have been leased to Michael Hill, Pascoes, Whitcoulls, Hartleys Fashion, Wallace Cotton, Meccano, The Majestic Tea Bar, Jeanswest, Glassons, Barkers, Max and Stewart Dawsons, The Body Shop, local businesses, including John Franich Jewellers and others.
Nathan Male, a retail leasing specialist of Metro Commercial, said Anne and David Norman's James Pascoe Group had a huge influence on new malls.
"The northwest is an area that's growing at an exponential rate and this is a necessary addition to the retail infrastructure. The Normans have a huge amount of influence on the pre-leasing of developments. They are significant retail players and someone who developers have to talk to at an early stage when planning retail because of the leverage they have," Male said.
Asked why DNZ had built such a traditional, enclosed-style mall when experts predicted rejection of that model, Alexander said the business had addressed that issue: "It's not a big monolithic structure but has articulated form so it is almost separate shops. The centre is fully leased but 50 per cent of the office space is yet to be leased," he said, referring to 3000sq m divided into 15 offices, including the centre management offices.
Asked about environmentally friendly aspects, centre manager Jennifer Andrews said rainwater would not be collected for recycling but a green wall of plants was planned.
The scale of the development was an obstacle in itself, she said. "The biggest challenge is opening the whole centre as one thing - from a construction point of view, so many workers on the site at one time."
Upper Harbour MP Paula Bennett said the mall meant a boost for job growth and eager consumers in the area.
The National MP opened the mall today and said she was thrilled to celebrate "the hard work of so many people.
"The shopping centre alone is expected to generate up to 700 new jobs, not to mention the wider economic growth a development of this size brings.
"It's a no brainer for businesses to invest in Upper Harbour and the wider Nor'West.
"Our people are young, diverse, and eager for new opportunities. Three quarters of our residents are under 50 years old, 36 per cent were born overseas, and about 50 per cent are two-parent families with children.
"Along with the thousands of new homes being built, new developments like what we've seen here today are fast making West Auckland one of the most desirable parts of Auckland."
What: New 100-shop NorthWest Shopping Centre.
Where: Off Northwestern Motorway at Westgate Town Centre, between Maki St and Gunton Drive.
Who: Developed by DNZ Property Fund.
When: Opening Thursday, October 1.
See a Google Map of the site here: (the new mall is across Hobsonville Road from the existing Westgate shopping centre)