Victoria Park goes upmarket
Tourists looking to spend a quick buck at stalls filled with knick-knacks will be out of luck as Victoria Park Market smartens up its act.
Developers are keen to establish the precinct as a hospitality and boutique shopping destination, distancing itself from its market moniker.
The site was built in 1905 as a waste depot and incinerator complex before being transformed into a retail market in 1983 after public outcry at plans to demolish it.
It was bought by the Kitchener Group in 2003 and continued to operate as a market until a $28 million refurbishment began in 2008.
Wellington tourist Deb Mills was surprised to find the site without its previous arts, crafts and souvenir stalls when she visited last week.
"I came here 10 years ago and it was great so we thought we would come down here for another look. What they've done looks lovely but it's not quite what we were looking for," she says.
"I'm sure it will be good when more things open up."
Victoria Park Market manager Shelley Mitchell says the new complex is more in keeping with how the surrounding suburbs have developed.
"The whole area has changed, it's quite a high decile, high income area," she says.
"We want to bring the area up and make it vibrant like it was in the 80s and 90s with just a whole new crowd coming in."
Along with restaurants, bars, cafes, boutique shops and a nail bar, plans are under way to open up a European-style market by the end of November.
"When you come down here it's an experience for you. You get to mooch around do some shopping and then head up to the bars for a glass of wine," Ms Mitchell says.
But she admits the precinct's change of direction has been tough on some of its previous tenants.
Those who had lease agreements before the developments have either chosen to leave as it no longer suited them or are moving position within the site itself, she says.
"We've got six good anchor tenants and we've got some really good tenancies opening in terms of turning this into a destination area."
Occupancy is currently sitting at about 68 per cent, lower than they would like to be at this time, she says.
"We thought we'd be a little bit further ahead but that's because our construction was delayed by 18 months and that was because of heritage issues."
This has had knock-on effects on current tenants with limited foot traffic moving through the site as people are unsure of whether it is now open.
"We are suffering a bit unfortunately with people saying there's not enough foot traffic," Ms Mitchell says.
But it is starting to increase as more stores open their doors, she says.
"Overall considering the delays in construction we are really happy with what we've managed to achieve in a trying environment."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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