We spoke with Dexus Property Group’s centre manager Arabella Richards about the vision behind the development and her thoughts on the latest property trends impacting retail.
Inside Retail: What’s the vision behind 80 Collins?
Arabella Richards: It’s luxury retail meets curated dining experience. You can come in the morning, grab a coffee and explore the beautiful retail stores. And then you can come in and have lunch or, if [it’s] later in the day, you can go to a restaurant or bar. And then, you might end up at Next Hotel for the night.
We’ve got flagship stores for Saint Laurent, Feit, Golden Goose, so it’s that next-level retail that’s really beautifully curated. But alongside that is the dining experience. Farmer’s Daughter is a beautiful farm-to-table concept from the Gippsland region, and Handpicked Wines is bringing the cellar door to the city.
The vision behind 80 Collins is really about bringing that retail mix together and making sure the story comes alive for each of those different retailers or restaurants.
IR: The part of Melbourne where 80 Collins is located is called the Paris End. How does the precinct tap into the history of the area?
AR: What I love about 80 Collins is that it’s built on the laneways, so it really leads you to explore and discover the old and new together. You’ve got the heritage of the Le Louvre building [named after the Parisian fashion boutique it housed for decades], and you’ve got the story of the former horse stables at the Next Hotel. And then when you look up, you see the towers above and the sun streaming through. You can see how it’s been really carefully put together to create this distinctive precinct that is really unique.
IR: What is the customer experience like?
AR: When you actually go into the retail stores, restaurants and bars, you can see that everything’s been done with the customer at the forefront. The fitouts and finishes have been designed with every last detail in mind – everything has been thought through.
I really think they are setting best practice in design and customer experience, and that’s so unique for that precinct. It just delivers at every level.
IR: When you create a precinct, I imagine you want the tenant mix to feel as if it’s evolved organically, but without the luxury of time, how do you make it feel like an authentic neighbourhood?
AR: Obviously, with the office towers above, the whole space has been created for the customer. But it has been curated really clearly so that there’s always a reason to come back, and that’s what gives it authenticity I think.
There’s a range of bars and restaurants, so [the mix] caters to different customers at different times in terms of what they’re needing. You might go to Farmer’s Daughter for a work lunch, or you might have drinks at Nick & Nora’s before going out for dinner or at the end of the night.
That’s the beauty of the precinct. It caters to the office worker, it caters to the interstate visitor who might come on the weekend, do their shopping, eat, have a drink and stay at the Next Hotel. And, of course, it caters to the Melbourne customer who just wants to come into the city to see the latest restaurants and bars. You can have the whole experience in that precinct, but it just happens very naturally. It doesn’t feel forced.
IR: I know the launch of 80 Collins has occurred in stages over the past year. Are there any new openings coming up?
AR: The next big opening will be Society by the Lucas Group [the hospitality company behind Chin-Chin and Kisume]. It will be an incredible addition to the precinct.
IR: Did your plans for 80 Collins change at all due to Covid?
AR: Not really. It didn’t affect the mix or the vision at all. We stayed true to what we were trying to achieve, and what we’re seeing in the CBD is that things are coming back to life week on week. Night-time is coming back.
IR: When you look around at other markets, are there any retail property trends or types of developments that you have your eye on?
AR: I think places that bring all the different elements together – places where you can shop, eat and have experiences, so they’re not just one thing – are key. Retail moving forward is all about experience, and I think 80 Collins is actually a great example of that, because it’s giving you experiences on all different levels. And it also taps into that piece around exploring and finding something new. What’s the latest restaurant? What’s the latest bar to go to? I think that’s really important in precincts.