Claim city needs more malls 'ridiculous'

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 22/05/2013
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Christchurch needs more shopping malls to cater for a population boom and bring its retail sector into line with other countries, a real estate agency says - a claim rubbished by city retailers.

Figures from Jones Lang LaSalle show New Zealand is among the least "malled" western countries, well behind the United States and Australia.

Christchurch, though, has more mall space per head than Auckland or Wellington, and the suggestion of more shopping centres threatens to reignite the city's long-running debate of suburban retail sprawl versus the central city.

Jones Lang LaSalle figured projected growth in Christchurch until 2031 meant the city would need a further 70,000 square metres of mall space.

That is the equivalent of another Northlands and The Palms malls combined.

Jones Lang Lasalle spokesman Justin Kean believed malls were a sign of "a sophisticated retail environment".

Malls had become "part of the social fabric" of a city, he said, and major centres were continually moving toward malls rather than stand-alone shops.

"[It's] not necessarily to the detriment of the stand-alone retailers, the two can operate hand in hand. But this comparison we've got [to overseas countries] will only get worse as the population grows if the mall growth remains static."

Christchurch's Central City Business Association manager Paul Lonsdale said the notion that Christchurch was in need of more malls was "the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard".

"A central city is key in generating income for the region, it's the hub of the tourism industry.

"I think everybody in Christchurch would agree with me in saying we would like to see the central city rebuilt. That won't happen if we continue to see malls expanding and more being built in the suburbs."

Lonsdale called for a moratorium to prevent any new suburban shopping centres, and stop the city centre suffering a similar fate to once-vibrant shopping precincts such as Sumner and New Brighton.

"They have just been left to die because they haven't been able to compete with these huge entities. They just seem to suck the life out of our community," he said.

Operators of Christchurch's biggest shopping mall also believe the city is well-poised for retail as it is.

Westfield Riccarton acting centre manager Helen Ronald said "we aren't either under or over supplied for shopping centres in Christchurch".

The Hub Hornby centre manager Jason Marsden believed the city could do with extra shopping centres. He had 50 retailers on a waiting list for floor space at the mall.

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"There's definitely demand for places that are seeing high population growth like Hornby, and you'd be silly not to cater to it."

Ballantynes executive director Richard Ballantyne said "the population is very well-serviced by the malls already".

Christchurch was "the most over-shopped city in New Zealand, and probably Australasia", and adding to that would spell disaster for a city centre that had been experiencing a decline in customers before the earthquakes, he said.

A revitalised central city retail core is part of Christchurch's recovery blueprint, being driven by the Christchurch Central Development Unit. It is calling for development plans covering at least 7500 square metres to develop the area around City Mall.

City Mall landlord Nick Hunt, who was developing a plan for the retail precinct, said the city had "more than [its] fair share" of malls.

"It's been acknowledged that these big malls had a detrimental effect on shopping in the city centre before the earthquakes."

Christchurch city councillor and planning committee chairwoman Sue Wells said there had long been a call from the community to stem the development of more retail complexes, and the council had responded.

AUSTRALASIAN CITIES AT A GLANCE:

Sydney: 1.07sqm of mall space per person

Melbourne: 0.88 sqm.

Christchurch: 0.64 sqm.

Auckland: 0.60 sqm.

New Zealand average: 0.44 sqm per person

- The Press

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