Stockland unveils new Wetherill Park

LEADThe unveiling of the redeveloped Stockland Wetherill Park in western Sydney last week shows that suburban shopping centre design can still surprise and delight.

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After two years of construction – and reconstruction – work, on Thursday December 10 Stockland unveiled its redeveloped and expanded shopping centre in Wetherill Park in western Sydney.

Boasting a Gross Lettable Area of 70,000sqm across one level, the $228 million redevelopment positions Stockland Wetherill Park at the vanguard of shopping centres in greater western Sydney. The refreshing design of the centre is based around a series of indoor/outdoor precincts that breathe new life and light into staid suburban shopping centre design.

Authentic casual dining retailers representing a broad range of cultures and cuisines populate a handful of outdoor dining precincts in the centre, while inside houses the likes of Coles, Woolworths, Big W, JB Hi-Fi Home, Dick Smith, a soon to be completed new format Target, as well as a wide range of fashion retailers, led by the first H&M store in western Sydney and Cotton On. As part of the makeover, the on site Hoyts cinema has also been refurbished.

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The completion of this second and final stage of the redevelopment saw the centre open another 5600sqm of retail space with 20 new fashion and homewares retailers together with a new 800-seat indoor-outdoor casual dining precinct to be known as ‘The Grove’. The Grove makes the most of its northern aspect with floor-to-ceiling windows, which concertina for an al fresco dining experience during fine weather.

The early delivery of the project – three months ahead of schedule –marks a significant achievement for Stockland and, crucially, means its retailers can fully capitalise on the busy Christmas trading period.

Federal Member for McMahon and Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, and Fairfield City Mayor, Frank Carbone, were joined at the opening of the centre by Stockland managing director and CEO, Mark Steinert, and Stockland group executive and CEO of commercial property, John Schroder.

“There is no other mall quite like Stockland Wetherill Park anywhere in Australia,” Schroder said. “It delivers an unparalleled retail experience, anchored by fresh food and fast casual dining with a modern twist on laneway-style street food vendors and entertainment.

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“When we asked our customers what they wanted from their new centre, the overwhelming response was, ‘a place to celebrate life and culture’. And after more than 30 years in Wetherill Park, we knew that a big part of the way the local community celebrates is through festivals and food, shared with friends and family. So that’s exactly what we’ve created – a new, free-flowing shopping centre.” 

From shopping centre to town centre
The centre has more than doubled its fresh food and casual dining offering with over 21 per cent of its retail mix now focused on food, including Nandos, Grill’d, San Churro, Thai Rock and Rashay’s Pizza Pasta and Grill. Stockland Wetherill Park is also home to the first Jamie’s Ministry of Food in NSW. A well-documented initiative of British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, Jamie’s Ministry of Food offers basic cooking courses focused on fresh food and healthy living.

Add into the mix medical centres, dentists, optometrists, a new Fit n Fast gym, a TAB, branches of three of the four big banks as well as St George and other financial services, and it’s very easy to see how Stockland Wetherill Park has been designed to be the new town centre for its surrounding suburbs.

“All the services that used to be on the streets, have come into the malls,” Schroder explained. “Here at Wetherill Park, the dentist is just over there. We’re standing across from the medical centre, and just up the mall is the big dental outlet.

“So Wetherill Park, as Chris Bowen said, is actually the town centre for this part of Sydney. So everything that you would expect in a classic town centre, is here.”

“This new development will quickly become a local landmark, providing a meeting point for our residents and a hub for connecting with family, friends and the wider community,” added Mayor Carbone.

Avoiding traditional shopping centre design elements, the new Stockland Wetherill Park boasts laneways that seamlessly move from indoors to outdoors and back again, offering an indoor/outdoor retail  environment that is part shopping centre, part outdoor food hall.

“If I showed you the original development plan for this centre going back eight years, you would’ve looked at it and thought, ‘that’s fairly traditional,” Schroder said. It was almost a parallel mall – fully enclosed, structured parts, it was a bit boring.”

Consultation between Fairfield City Council and Stockland’s design team led to a rethink of what the redevelopment was trying to achieve.

“We’ve had to rethink what this thing will stand for,” Schroder explained. “We’ve set it up for longer-term growth, and there’s more into the future. Now when and how quick that will happen, I don’t know yet, but I’m confident that the centre will probably outperform over time and we’re already turning our mind to what does that mean for the future. It is structurally set up in terms of the laneways and connections, to be able to extend the centre into the future.”

Stockland has also opened an additional 910 car parking spaces today, bringing the total to approximately 2700 spaces, which is a 30 per cent increase on the number of spaces available prior to the redevelopment. Previously, lack of parking had been an issue for the centre.

Leading in green
In another first for the Wetherill Park centre, and as a mark of Stockland’s approach to the project, Stockland achieved a 5 Star Green Star Retail ‘Design’ rating through the Green Building Council of Australia earlier for its Wetherill Park redevelopment.

Hallmarks of this green initiative is the fact that all timber used in the project is plantation timber from within Australia, rather than the result of deforestation in the likes of Indonesia or South America. The centre also boasts a solar power system which will produce about one quarter of the power the shopping centre requires.

“That’s a benefit, clearly, in terms of reducing your carbon footprint and preserving the resources of the earth, but it’s also important in the sense that it reduces your cost base and you’re able to pass that saving onto the retailers,” Schroder said. “A retailer gives us, as a landlord, one cheque every month, and that cheque has to cover operating costs, cleaning, maintenance, security, electricity, rent… . So [retailers] are grateful when they know that we’re putting effort in to try and bring the cost base down, because their profitability is critical. If they’re more profitable, we’re more profitable.”

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