The $790 million redevelopment of Westfield Newmarket is by far the largest scheme undertaken in Australasia by giant shopping centre owner Scentre Group.

Justin Krzywokulski, Scentre's general manager of development and strategic asset management, said nothing in Australia came close to the scale of the Auckland project, now in full swing, with demolition taking place at 277 Broadway and construction at the neighbouring 309 Broadway.

The two sites will be linked via an air-bridge over Mortimer Pass and Smith Crane and Construction tower cranes are up at 309 Broadway.

Krzywokulski said Westfield Carousel in Perth was undergoing an A$350m ($382m) upgrade "so Newmarket is still the largest for us. This is the biggest project we've undertaken".

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Scentre, listed on the ASX, manages A$47.4 billion of assets here and in Australia and owns assets valued at A$33.6b. It was created in 2014 through the demerger of Westfield Group, and the merger of its businesses here and in Australia with Westfield Retail Trust.

Krzywokulski said new retailers would be announced in the next few months. Many would not have traded in New Zealand before and he cited Scentre's "ability to leverage new retailers", in reference to its size.

The business has 39 centres worth A$51b with 11,600 retailers in more than 3.6m square metres of retail space.

"We've been doing a lot of work with a lot of groups and over the next few months, we will come out with some of the names but at the moment, it's too early," he said of Newmarket leasing, citing fashion, food and international brands.

Chris Wilkinson, First Retail Group managing director, said: "Scentre will be looking in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia for new tenants in Newmarket because consumers are tiring of the sameness of retail."

The old 277 mall (left), looking towards Gillies Ave. Photo / Michael Craig
The old 277 mall (left), looking towards Gillies Ave. Photo / Michael Craig

Krzywokulski said the new centre's design would be far more open than the now-demolished hub "and although we can't have street frontages all the way up but we have been cognisant of sitting within the broader Newmarket context, so we want to provide links".

The old 277 got about 5 million annual shopper visits "so we would expect to see that increase significantly."

Excavations are well under way for new David Jones department store, to be at the Gilles Ave/Mortimer Pass end of the existing 277 building. Much of the existing structure is being retained and Scentre staff are still working from there, while building works take place around them.

At 309 Broadway, a new Farmers store is rising (centre). Photo / Michael Craig
At 309 Broadway, a new Farmers store is rising (centre). Photo / Michael Craig

Volcanic rock in the Gilles Ave/Mortimer Pass corner is being blasted or fractured with explosives at 10am and 2.30pm, then trucked off the site.

About 10,000 workers would be involved in the two-year construction project, Krzywokulski said.

The steel form work for the new Farmers is visible across Mortimer Pass at 309 Broadway. The new Event Cinema multiplex will be at the Broadway/Clovernook Rd intersection.

The 2770 new carparking spaces will be spread across seven levels on both sites.

Scentre now brands its assets as 'living centres', emphasising that an offer far wider than just shopping. Movies, dining and entertainment, restaurants and gyms are included in its centres, it says.

Excavations for the new David Jones department store in Newmarket. Photo / Michael Craig
Excavations for the new David Jones department store in Newmarket. Photo / Michael Craig

"These spaces are extensions of people's homes," he said, telling of an end to "the days of bringing people in one end and coming out the other and not giving them an opportunity to pause and enjoy."

Calling the properties living centres changed perceptions about shopping centres, he said.

"It's a real shift. From a development perspective, it creates an exciting opportunity. When people talk about a mall, people have visions of a very closed, lifeless spaces housing retailers. We're moving away from that," he said.


Westfield Newmarket facts
• Bulk excavation: 81,584 cu m or about 33 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

• Structural steel weight in new buildings: 7100 tonnes, or about 12 times the amount used in the Sky Tower.

• Concrete floor area being built: 186,766sq m.

• That is about 13 times the area of the Eden Park.

• Plasterboard wall lining area : 86,436sq m or 8.6ha.

• Green wall façade: 2700sq m or just over the size of five America's Cup yacht sails.

• $790m project set to open in stages next year.

• Project on 4.5ha site area.

• First David Jones for Auckland.

• New format Farmers department store.

• Countdown supermarket, 230 new specialty stores.

• Event Cinemas including Gold Class.