Australasia's largest shopping centre project is bucking the trend for tardiness in major New Zealand building projects, with the first phase of that $790 million Auckland giant opening around the target between July and September.
An announcement from ASX-listed Scentre Group last year on Westfield Newmarket said the 230-shop 2800-carpark project would open "Q2 to Q4" this year.
On a site tour yesterday, Scentre's chief operating officer Greg Miles said: "It will open in phases and the first stage will be in the third quarter."
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Farmers will be one of the first, scheduled to open between July and September, Miles said.
The $703m NZ International Convention Centre was meant to open in February but now open till the next year's second half. Offices in the $1b Commercial Bay were to open in July but won't be finished until December and shops due to open last November, won't now open till this September.
Miles announced leasing to the first New Zealand outlets for Camilla and Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq, along with well-established kiwi brands Rebel Sport, Torpedo 7, Kathmandu and Noel Leeming. Speculation is that Louis Vuitton, Gucci and Canada Goose will also open there but Miles said he could not confirm anything "but we are talking to a range, including luxury brands."
One Auckland investment expert said: "Cynics say the staged opening is because Scentre can't fill it and they don't want empty windows. Apparently, they're charging too much." But the asset would change Newmarket "just like Westfield Bondi Junction lifted that entire area of Sydney", he said.
Miles said: "Retailer interest in the development is incredibly strong across all categories and, as you can see from the impressive line-up of local and international brand partners we've got on board, leasing is well progressed. We regularly open redevelopments in stages. The construction and development of such a major site as Newmarket is a staged process in itself. As various precincts are completed we want to be able to open them for our customers to enjoy while we continue to complete construction and development works on other precincts."
Multiple stages would be opened in this year's second half and construction would be completed by Christmas, he said.
Part of the newly-constructed 309 Broadway would open first, followed by shops in 277 Broadway where Auckland's first David Jones department store is rising.
The two-level Farmers at 309 Broadway is nearing completion, its fitout ahead of other retailers: walls are decorated, display wall fittings are up, flooring is down and protected, painters are finishing ceilings, light fittings are in and some furniture is in place.
That contrasts with most of the rest of levels one and two of 309 Broadway which mainly present as concrete shells, yet to get wallboard or ceilings fitted.
Greek marble floor tiles have been laid at 309 Broadway: lighter or white-coloured Volakas further down and the darker coloured Grigio further up.
Contractors providing services include Clearwater Construction on 309 Broadway, Whangarei's Culham Engineering and Conslab Concrete on 277, Project Commercial Interiors and Tasman Interiors. Also on yesterday's tour were Scentre's project managers Sean Nash and Matt Kingstone and construction director John Tiller.
Miles said retail floorspace was leasing for an average $2000/sq m per annum, although rates varied across the site, depending on store size and location.