Steven Leigh, managing director of the centre’s owner, QIC Global Real Estate, said the much-hyped opening provided a peak at, “the future of the retail experience”.
He noted that almost 40 per cent of the new brands at Eastland had not been available in Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs up until now.
Centre manager, Steve Edgerton, said this, plus the centre’s urban design and environment, now made it a legitimate alternative to shopping in Melbourne’s CBD.
The centre’s unveiling marked years of planning work. Indeed, QIC began talking to the Maroondah City Council and state government more than 15 years ago about the redevelopment. Building work started in October 2013.
The result has been the creation of a new Town Square, which features retailers, contemporary al fresco dining and generous public space for an integrated mix of activities.
Also new is Realm, a future-forward library and a centre, which also houses the Centre for Regional Knowledge and Innovation. The Maroondah City Council has also built a new aquatic centre in the area.
These buildings coincide with the $66 million redevelopment of the Ringwood train station, which, according to Edgerton, is used by 3.5 million visitors each year. He added that 2.5 million people live within a 30-minute drive from Eastland.
“This is going to be a unique destination in the east of Melbourne so we are not necessarily putting limits on our potential to draw over and above what our traditional catchment would be,” he said. “First and foremost, it’s about establishing a destination that creates a relationship with the customer.
“The immediate community is going to love its new centre of town. But if people are looking for an experience beyond the traditional shopping centre, this will be a destination of choice. Melbournians love their day trips to the Yarra Valley and we can certainly be a stop off for a bite to eat on the way.”
“Take H&M, for example,” he continued. “It chose Eastland as its first suburban placement in Melbourne. I think that tells an amazing story about the vision of the site. But H&M will also draw people to the centre from far and wide.”
A landlord thinking like a retailer
Eastland’s approach to its retail partners has been to share the story of being a part of a community – as opposed to hardcore property speak, according to Edgerton.
“Talking more like the world best’s retailers than a shopping centre, I think, has enabled us to attract the major brands,” he explained. “We are behaving like those at the forefront of retail trends – that is, we are building a destination that develops a connection with the visitor, starts a relationship, and to deepen it we are providing an amenity that allows people to stay and enjoy the space, eat, buy some fresh flowers, sit in the garden and relax. We want to build a relationship with those visitors first and, of course, provide access to retail thereafter.”
To create a community for its retailers, Eastland is also launching an online portal. Edgerton call it a “hyperlocal digital community”, which allows every employee at Eastland to engage with the centre.
“With retailers’ best customers being those that actually work in a centre, people can hook into the community page and find out what specials are on for the staff at Eastland,” he explained. “There’s building information and a great community page where retailers talk to each other. If you are alone in the shop, you can hook into the portal and order coffee or lunch and we will bring it to you, or drop off your dry-cleaning.”
Edgerton highlighted three specific ways in which Eastland would service the customer. These are via a traditional service desk; a dining concierge in Town Square that services customers from a food standpoint; and a substantial service hub, which includes valet parking and a click and collect option that is a little different to the norm. Those purchasing online – even from a number of retailers that don’t actually have a physical presence at Eastland – can select the new Eastland as their collection point.
“When they collect the purchase, they can try it on and if they don’t like it, they can simply return it to the service team, which will take over the back end for them,” Edgerton explained. “Thus, our shopping environment is becoming truly omnichannel, as our retailers are, and tries to make the experience seamless from a digital and physical point of view.”
The centre’s transformation will boost its size by around 50 per cent, from 78,000sqm to about 134,000sqm. David Jones, Target and Hoyts each launched new retail concepts at the centre.
Designer brands including Scanlan Theodore, sass&bide, Camilla, Calibre, Morrison, Gorman, Skin & Threads, Mecca Cosmetica, Jack London, Alpha 60, Rodeo Show, Oroton, Martin York, Scotch & Soda and Mecca Maxima will join international brands including Marimekko, Victoria’s Secret Beauty and Accessories and MAC.
In addition, South African fashion retailer, MRP, will launch its second Melbourne shopfront at Eastland.
Headlining the dining line-up are celebrity chefs George Calombaris and Frank Camorra, who will both open new restaurants – Jimmy Grants’ Deluxe and Paco’s Tacos, respectively.
Other eateries in the Town Square include Huxtaburger by Jeff Wong and Daniel Wilson; a new gastro inspired casual dining concept from Seagrass Boutique Hospitality Group called Hunter & Barrel; The Cellar Door, a rooftop garden and bar from Dale White and Rebecca Gallagher of The Public Brewery; Gelatieri per Passione, the first ice creamery out of Italy for the Lavezzi family; AngAng by Chinta Ria Soul; and the popular inner city fish and burger bar, Hunky Dory, to name a few.
Eastland also unveiled a series of works from celebrated artists David Bromely and Joost Bakker, as well as a collection of prominent female artists such as French-born LucyLucy, and Shannon Crees, who has had her work profiled at Banksy’s Cans Festival in London.
The development includes an upgrade to existing parking facilities, with the introduction of a sophisticated electronic parking guidance system and more than 1000 new car parks.
Eastland has also opened a “changing places” bathroom, the first of its kind to be installed in an Australian shopping centre. This toilet will have additional features to better meet the needs of people with disabilities and their carers. Each changing places bathroom includes a height adjustable, full-sized changing bench, a tracking hoist system and enough space for carers to assist.
On completion of stage two next year, the new Eastland will feature more than 350 retailers, including the 50 to 60 additional brands that will launch in mid-2016. It will also have created around 1700 new retail, hospitality and services jobs.
Future development options are currently being explored, but Edgerton declined to provide details on this. “It’s fair to say there is going to be more to come at Eastland,” he said.
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