An Auckland mall has changed hands for around $40 million after NZ Retail Property Group quit the Highbury Shopping Centre at Birkenhead, ending its plans for five residential apartment towers up to 12 levels tall.

Campbell Barbour, group general manager, said today the property had been sold, handled off-market in a transaction which settled in May.

The Highbury centre in Birkenhead. Photo/Sylvie Whinray
The Highbury centre in Birkenhead. Photo/Sylvie Whinray

"We've got so much to do. We've got Westgate and Milford. We're still playing with that," he said of apartment plans and an expanded retail centre offering at Milford.

Barbour today opened the NZ Council of Shopping Centres national conference in Auckland and disclosed the sale before the event. He is also the council's chairman.

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Just last year, NZRPG planned a vast new shopping centre and residential community at its Highbury property on the corner of Mokoia Rd, Onewa Rd and the Highbury Bypass.

It said it had patiently held onto the property without exercising its vision.

A presentation to the NZX, ahead of a partial planned now-ditched listing, showed the development potential of Highbury and artists' impressions of what the centre could look like in 2030.

Five big luxury residential apartment towers up to about 12 levels high were then shown there with large decks. An outdoor courtyard was shown to one side of the blocks, to be built high up on the ridge overlooking the North Shore.

Beneath the towers was to be a vastly expanded shopping mall.

NZRPG's plans for Birkenhead, now sold.
NZRPG's plans for Birkenhead, now sold.

"The vision for Highbury is to create an integrated, mixed use centre with residential apartments, greater public amenities and invigorated retail," NZRPG said last year in its presentation.

"NZRPG has a large scale vision for Highbury's redevelopment. It anticipates it will not only transform its own property, but be the catalyst for an acceleration of the ongoing regentrification of the Birkenhead town centre.

"NZRPG's patience in holding Highbury until the time is right for it to reach its full potential, combined with the indisputable property fundamentals, have created the opportunity for a significant redevelopment. This is anticipated to cement Highbury's retail position in a thriving town centre and deliver significant capital returns from apartment residential development."

A company spokeswoman said at the time that the Highbury image was "a conceptual vision for how we could create an integrated retail and residential space on the Highbury site. It's by no means an absolute and it's simply an exploration of how we could position a mixed use development on the site with retail on the ground level."

People in the community would be consulted, she stressed.

Barbour said today he could not name the buyer and that he had not been closely involved in the deal.

NZRPG is owned by private interests of Mark Gunton who also owns other major shopping centres including Milford and Westgate, and the lease to a large South Island farm.

Some of the mall's stores include ANZ, Westpac, Countdown, The Warehouse, Burger King, KFC and Rodney Wayne.