Is this where Ikea will make its New Zealand debut? Will Costco really sell fuel for 30 per cent below market prices - and will it be worth paying a $60 membership? And when will the new Bunnings finally be finished?
These are some of the questions from those in and around Auckland's ever-changing $2 billion Westgate, the first new town centre created in Auckland since Manukau some decades ago and Albany, somewhat more recently.
Costco's June announcement to open at Westgate in 2021 and sell fuel 20 to 30 per cent cheaper than elsewhere could be a game-changer for this new northwestern hub.
Ikea is often located alongside or near Costco overseas so expectations are that the furniture and homeware retailer might pick the fast-growing northwest where thousands of new houses are rising around Westgate and in the area up to Hobsonville Point.
But when will Westgate be finished?
"Never," says Mark Gunton, chairman, founder and owner of NZ Retail Property Group that created Westgate on the city's north-western fringes. "By the time you get to the end, you're at the start again. That's the way of towns, they're ever-changing, ever-evolving. They don't stop changing. That's the way Westgate will always be."
Gunton, who has revealed a list of new businesses opening soon, hoped for a possible new motorway connection to ease congestion and expressed frustration about lack of an Auckland Council transport hub, the subject of current litigation between his business and the council.
Westgate is now the old 11ha site of Countdown, The Warehouse and many other shops and offices and the new 57ha site where so many new businesses, including Costco, are opening.
The two parts are separated by Fred Taylor Dr, yet you can't currently drive from the new to the old centre by crossing that key arterial route, a bone of contention between Gunton, who wants the link opened, and Auckland Transport, which demands he remove advertising to make a safe transit.
In a sign of how rapidly the area is changing, Gunton pointed to the Palmers Garden Centre. The site is around five years old and looks smart and new, yet the business is moving to a new site and a new build, due to the Mitre 10 MEGA's rapid expansion.
Five years in the making: How Costco will shake up NZ retail
The map shows the location of new tenancies. Some key highlights are:
• Residential development outside Gunton's land, alongside new town centre, approx 10,000 new homes planned, many already rising. Malbec, Universal Homes, Sonn Group and the Salvation Army sites on ex-farmland. Some 200sq m sites selling for $398,000.
• Maki St upgrade: new paving, planting, landscaping to rejuvenate this key central spine, creating new streetscape but parking/traffic disruption;
• New Bunnings Warehouse Westgate, at 21 Fred Taylor Dr. At 15,544sq m, it will be NZ's biggest Bunnings, with an estimated completion value of $65m-$67m. There will be 745sq m of retail tenancies as well, making this complex 16,290sq m on completion, with 318 car parks and 180-plus staff to work there.
• Future town stages, mall-style shops with what Gunton terms "significant office accommodation" planned, probably in towers in Westgate's heart;
• Residential: high rise town centre apartment living, which Gunton indicated could be on the same scale and style as that planned at Mt Wellington's Sylvia Park and Takapuna's Smales Farm, perhaps 30 levels tall;
• Intensive housing developments: refer to this link by Sonn Group.
• Future retail: a mix of convenience and bulk retail with what Gunton calls "residential overlays", meaning apartment-style housing will be incorporated here;
• Costco Wholesale: the world's second-largest retailer after Walmart, with annual revenue equivalent to New Zealand's total GDP, is set to open in 2021, construction yet to begin, about 14,000sq m or 1.4ha, 800-plus rooftop carparks, around 350 staff, full-format offering of groceries, electronics, homewares, sports equipment, shoes, clothing, convenience food - everything from coffins to giant teddy bears;
• Costco Fuel Station, selling 20-30 per cent cheaper, a drawcard for the membership-only scheme, which might cost around $60/person;
• New Palmers Garden Centre, about to be relocated to make way for Mitre 10 Mega's massive expansion;
• AS Colour, a clothing or garment business whose range includes t-shirts, singlets, shirts and sweatshirts. The business designs and makes "quality basics" and says it hand-picks factories with safe, fair, legal and humane working conditions;
• Business park: industrial-style operations will be located here, alongside their offices and showrooms in what is a growing commercial sector of the market;
• New extended Mitre 10: to be a giant 16,000sq m or 1.6ha on completion, making it the biggest in NZ, like the Bunnings;
• Retail showrooms, leasing now, major new buildings and new leases are planned here but little has been revealed so far;
• Z service station, a new full-service offering to be developed here;
• New proposed motorway connection; long-overdue infrastructure link to north-western motorway. With Costco opening in two years, further pressure will goes on pinch points. The partly-built motorway connection to the north is called "the Roman ruin" by locals. Gunton says: "This is in the design stages, as we understand it, but is long overdue."
• Turners Car Auctions, work under way to bring NZ's largest car dealer to a prominent site on the western side of Westgate.