Newmarket is gaining recognition as a 'hip' city fringe suburb, with urban renewal and trendy new cafes revitalising its backstreets.
Dave Burley, investment broker with Colliers International who specialises in commercial property sales in the area, says the suburb's ongoing transformation has picked up pace.
"Newmarket has long been established as a premier retail destination, but it's often unfairly seen as lacking the edginess of other city fringe locations like K Rd, Ponsonby and Grey Lynn," he says. "That perception is rapidly changing as chic new businesses open in the area, often in revitalised character spaces."
Burley points to the transformation in the block comprising Melrose, McColl and Roxburgh Streets, just off Khyber Pass Rd, opposite the University of Auckland campus.
"This fast-changing light industrial and commercial area is now home to character outlets and two of Auckland's trendiest cafes," he says.
"L'affare, a boutique coffee roastery and eatery, is in a former warehouse at 22 Melrose St. This funky new space speaks to its heritage with industrial lighting, a steel-framed mezzanine floor, and exposed ducts and rafters, softened by timber and copious natural light."
Also on the block is the Newmarket cafe of bakery Little and Friday, in a former showroom at 11 McColl St.
"A light, minimalist space has been created with floor-to-ceiling windows, exposed lightbulbs, and rough brick walls that have been painted a startling white."
Burley says the revitalisation has generated significant interest in Newmarket's backstreets. "We're getting plenty of inquiry from businesses that might have ignored the suburb a short few years ago. There's no doubt about it - Newmarket is cool again."
Mark Knoff-Thomas, chief executive of the Newmarket Business Association, says Newmarket has always been "cool, calm and collected."
"We're a bit unflappable. Trends come and go, but Newmarket as a whole just keeps moving forward," he says.
"The trading and commercial history of this area is deep and continually evolving. We have a very loyal consumer base and the offering we have for them keeps growing and maturing."
Knoff-Thomas says retail makes up about a third of Newmarket's business mix, but the vast majority is commercial and corporate.
"We have a workforce of about 18,000 and rising. Our residential population is around 4,500 and increasing rapidly," he says.
"We have more than 120 cafes, bars and restaurants, two cinema complexes and more fitness centres than you can shake a stick at."
Knoff-Thomas says Newmarket benefits from being a major transport hub, which is well serviced by trains, buses, motorways and 12 public car parks.
Historically, Newmarket has been a major transport route between Auckland's two harbours.
After European settlement, the suburb evolved into a major trading post that housed ironmongers, breweries, cattle yards, a slaughter house and market gardens, among other businesses.
"Retail naturally developed along the main travel routes, which in turn attracted commercial businesses, and the perpetual growth continued," Knoff-Thomas says.
More recently, the number of workers and residents in the area has been increasing. "We are seeing multiple apartment projects popping up which will further intensify our residential mix," he says.
"It makes the precinct even more attractive for further retail, hospitality and commercial development as we have an affluent local market."
In the future, Knoff-Thomas says Newmarket will have "more of everything".
"We'll have more people, shops, apartments, hospitality, commercial and corporate tenants.
"In the short to medium term our side-streets will be upgraded as part of the Waitemata Local Board's Newmarket Laneways Master Plan.
"We'll also see new major retail developments built, including Westfield's project to expand and develop its shopping centre assets at 309 and 277 Broadway."
John Davies, investment broker with Colliers, who specialises with Burley in Newmarket commercial property sales, says the University of Auckland's campus on the former Lion Brewery site is helping to drive growth in the suburb.
"The 'uni' has started to bring an influx of students, academics and support staff, who are now fuelling demand for contemporary spaces to shop, eat and drink, relax and meet with others."
The recent sale of The Warehouse's Broadway site will further transform Newmarket, Davies says.
"The site could be opened up for mixed use development, including smaller format stores, offices and residential developments within the coveted double Grammar zone."
Another significant new development is the Mercury headquarters under construction at 33 Broadway where Tegel has recently signed up as the building's secondary tenant.