Shops below apartments in Sydney
‘a flawed model’

Larry Schlesinger
13 March 2016

New apartments tower with retail shops on the ground floor have not worked well in Sydney, according to Chris Johnson, CEO of lobby group, Urban Taskforce Australia.

Mr Johnson said most of these shops sat vacant for long periods of time because their suburban locations did not have big enough populations and foot traffic to support them.

“Town planners and local councils like developers to activate the ground floor, usually with retail, but it’s a flawed model because Sydney is not Paris,” he told The Australian Financial Review.

A search of online listings by the Financial Review revealed more than 100 shops available for lease in development hotspots such as Zetland and Waterloo, many of them shops at the foot of new apartment towers.

Retail vacancies also remain stubbornly high on key suburban strips such as Oxford Street in Paddington (more than 30 shops for lease) and Military Road, Neutral Bay and Mosman (more than 25 shops).

Mr Johnson said true mixed-use developments were a better solution, pointing to a completed project such as East Village in Zetland by developer Payce.

“East Village has a whole Coles supermarket on the ground floor surrounded by lots of shops and outlets. Above it is a gym and commercial space, with a sky park on top and then five or six stories of apartments.

“We did a tour through there recently and it was absolutely humming,” he said.

In Brisbane, a similar scenario of vacant shops below apartment towers was occurring, said Cameron Taudevin, director of retail leasing of JLL.

“In many of the new apartment towers, the retail has been poorly planned with small boutique spaces and no available parking for shoppers,” he said.

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