With more than $200 million dollars in land sales in just three years and the who's who of the nation's property industry involved in developments, Albany is emerging as Auckland's newest city centre.
"Albany is at the forefront of New Zealand's property development recovery," says Bruce Whillans, managing director of Ray White Commercial.
"This has been primarily driven by the land returning to freehold ownership, following the collapse of the original complex leasehold structure, and Auckland's rapid expansion northwards as the region's population increases.
"This has produced this strong demand for what is without question one of the country's fastest growing regions.
"Some of the largest names in the property industry including Todd Property Group, Goodman, Argosy, Willis Bond, Hayden and Rollett and Progressive are all capitalising on extensive design development in Albany. Infrastructure work is already in place, with a range of retail, commercial and residential projects under way."
Whillans says the success of Albany City is reflected in the top performance of the Westfield Albany shopping centre, Westfield's largest New Zealand development project, which since opening in 2007 has traded well above expectations.
"This is a world-class shopping centre that achieved a five star rating at the 2010 Asia Pacific International Property Awards," he says.
The collapse of the leasehold structure gave Progressive Enterprises the confidence to secure the freehold interest in its 3.3ha block at Don McKinnon Drive, and earthworks are underway for a Countdown supermarket.
Adrian Walker, general manager of property for Progressive Enterprises, describes the new supermarket as "a state-of-the-art facility to service the local community which is forecast to be a top performer for the group".
Albany's development is further underpinned by Argosy Property's acquisition of the freehold interest in its existing investment in the Albany Home Centre. This is anchored by Mitre 10 Mega and has paved the way for the development of the adjoining 1.46ha of land.
Peter Mence, chief executive of Argosy, says earthworks have been done, and further retail development is well advanced.
Next to Argosy's Albany Home Centre is the Todd Property Group which is developing The Foundation, a $20 million retail project on Oteha Valley Road east of the North Harbour Stadium, in conjunction with Adam Reynolds from Cappella Investments.
Todd Property bought the site from Argosy last year and is well advanced with its development, which is due for completion in March next year.
The Foundation will provide automotive, leisure and service facilities in addition to a dining precinct.
Evan Davies, managing director of Todd Property Group, says Watts & Hughes is doing the construction.
"We've signed leasing agreements with Lone Star Restaurant, Daikoku, La Porchetta, Bridgestone and Discoveries Educare among others. "We're enthusiastic about what is being developed here. It will be an attractive mix of food and beverage and retail offerings in a great location to leverage off the pace of growth in and around Albany."
Confidence in Albany is further reinforced by The Hub Albany Limited Partnership, a joint venture between Haydn and Rollett, McDougall Reidy (developers of the successful Carlaw Park development) and Willis Bond's recent acquisition of a 4.5ha block on the corner of Oteha Valley Rd and Cornerstone Drive.
Planning is well advanced for a true mixed-use site incorporating a service station, restaurants/fast food outlets, retail, serviced apartments, a medical centre and apartments.
Josh Coburn, project manager for The Hub Albany Limited Partnership, says interest in the $100 million development has been well beyond expectation, with commitments from a service station operator and two fast food chains.
"Expressions of interest have also been secured from an Australian serviced apartment operator and a nationally branded medical centre," Coburn says.
"Many of these users have been keeping a close eye on progress within Albany and have been waiting for the signs of life that we all knew would return, once the complex leasehold structure was abated. While their interest was expected, their enthusiasm has taken us a bit by surprise."
Coburn puts this down to Albany "ticking all the boxes". The Albany Westfield Centre, Event Cinema Complex, North Harbour Stadium, Massey University and the Park and Ride are all within a kilometre radius.
"The completion of the Albany Western Ring Route and the Northern Gateway bring immediate connectivity to both the north and west," Coburn says. "This has dramatically expanded and improved the core demographic profile surrounding our development".
At the northern end of Albany, Goodman Group, developers of the world class Highbrook Business Park in East Tamaki, has started earthworks on Orchard Park, a 12ha integrated estate.
"Orchard Park is a quality development providing top end commercial space," says Mike Prentice, Goodman's project director.
"Our overall design and harmonious integration of buildings and landscaping will enhance the amenity and character of Albany. Goodman recognises the potential of the Albany Basin and we are excited to be involved in the next stage of its growth after acquiring one of the largest remaining parcels of land."
Orchard Park has a zoning that supports business uses from light commercial to commercial office and some amenity-based retail.
Goodman is offering design-build solutions for light commercial and office users who want quality facilities tailored to their operations.
Prentice says Goodman has a proven and capable development team and access to the best possible consultants to ensure efficient service for its clients.
"We like to build lasting relationships with our customers and offer flexible lease structures with competitive market rentals. We can also offer design-build options on a turn-key purchase basis."
For ultimate flexibility, Goodman is also selling individually serviced sites.
"A simple freehold ownership structure provides land options for those who have their own visions and are happy to work within the design parameters and quality guidelines that we have set to ensure the estate is the North Shore's preferred business location," Prentice says.
Whillans says Albany is "not only all about business", as some top residential developers are committing to land within the estate. "They recognise the convenience of the location, its closeness to Auckland via the motorway and Park and Ride, amenities that include the sports stadium along with the existing retail and the education facilities," he says.
"This has resulted in plans being well advanced for a mix of high rise, low rise and terrace house development which should increase the estate's residential population by between 5000 and 7000 people.
"Albany City has been a runaway success responding to Auckland's population growth and the needs of its changing demographics. Only four sites totalling 6.3ha remain from the original 26ha in the northern half of Albany.