Auckland’s Chancery Square in revival mode

5:00 AM Saturday June 3, 2017 True Commercial

An artist’s impression of rebranded Chancery Square where reduced car traffic is designed to attract people to pedestrian-friendly spaces. Photo / Supplied

A retail revival in midtown Auckland is underway with a flurry of high-profile shops opening in High St and Chancery Square.

The bustling retail and hospitality precinct is also due to get a boost from the $10.7 million redevelopment of Freyberg Place, which is scheduled to reopen later this month.

Colliers international retail leasing director Nilesh Patel says new arrivals to High St in recent months include fashion brands Timberland, Flo & Frankie and Gorman. They will soon be joined by skincare retailer Aesop and fashion brand AS Colour.

Nearby Chancery Square is also undergoing a transformation, with new branding positioning it as vibrant, charming retail and hospitality hub.

The latest tenant to sign a lease is established hairdressing salon Toni&Guy, which is due to move from its longstanding High St premises to a 141sq m ground floor tenancy in the next few months.

Patel is marketing eight more leasing opportunities at Chancery Square with Colliers International colleague Chloe Franklin-Hall and JLL brokers Ranesh Parmar and Chris Beasleigh.

He says Chancery Square is well positioned to benefit from midtown Auckland’s ongoing renaissance.

“Good public spaces and the right mix of retail and hospitality can bring new life to a city,” he says.

“We’ve already witnessed that in Auckland with the transformation of Britomart, Wynyard Quarter and lower Queen St . Now it’s midtown’s turn.”

Patel says retailers are excited about the opportunities that the Waitemata Local Board’s redevelopment of Freyberg Place will bring.

“The new Freyberg Place will be more than just an attractive, well designed public space — it will become midtown Auckland’s vibrant community hub,” he says.

The upgrade will add more seating and planting, including native trees. It will also involve the complete refurbishment of the historic Ellen Melville Community Centre, including a ground floor community space for conferences, market stalls and art exhibitions.

Positive impact

Waitemata Local Board chairwoman Pippa Coom says the upgrade is already having a positive impact on the area around High St .

“More people seem to be attracted to the O’Connell St and Chancery Square area because of the reduction in car traffic and the increase in attractive, pedestrian friendly spaces,” she says.

“I believe we will see similar levels of impressive economic return as we have from other upgrades in the city centre — for example, the upgrade of Fort St has resulted in a 47 per cent increase in consumer spending.”

Coom says she is excited about the completion of the upgrade. “High St retailers will have a new view of what is possible from great urban design and the benefits that flow from removing low value on-road parking spaces,” she says.

“I’m hopeful the upcoming High St District Framework Plan will now be far more ambitious. Work on the framework plan is expected to get under way in July.”

Heart of the City Chief Executive Viv Beck says the High St area has a rich history, prime location, quality architecture and so much potential as the city evolves and grows.

“The High St precinct continues to offer an eclectic mix of specialist boutiques, offbeat offerings, bookshops and cafes,” she says.

“The intimate positioning of its shops and diversity of the offer adds to the character of the area and helps attract strong foot traffic. It’s a positive endorsement of this area that leading brands and hospitality ventures continue to choose the High St district to base their businesses.”

Beck says the Freyberg Place upgrade will once again connect High St with O’Connell St and Chancery Square, and reinforce the precinct as a great place to visit.

Britomart full

Franklin-Hall says Chancery Square’s abundant character is what sets it apart from other central city retail destinations.

“With its paved courtyard, plentiful open air seating, attractive planting and sheltered outdoor spaces, it offers an alluring new twist on the old-world village square,” she says.

“Chancery Square’s charming environment is a major drawcard for visitors seeking an attractive space to dine, shop and relax.”

Low retail vacancy rates make Chancery Square’s remaining leases particularly attractive, says Franklin-Hall.

“Latest Colliers International research shows the retail vacancy rate in Auckland’s CBD is 2.5 per cent, while there are no vacancies at all at Britomart.

“By contrast, High St and Chancery Square have a vacancy rate of 5.1 per cent, which means there are still limited opportunities for businesses looking for high-quality, inner-city retail spaces.”

Beasleigh says Chancery Square is centrally positioned amid large office towers, hotels and apartments.

“Nestled between Albert Park and the bustle of midtown, it’s a short stroll from Queen St ,” he says.

“It’s also close to the Britomart Transport Centre, the cruise ship terminal, and the University of Auckland and AUT campuses.

“Along with plentiful public transport, it is well serviced by parking on the surrounding streets and in multiple public carpark buildings in the area, including one across the road.”

Parmar says Chancery Square is well positioned to attract a diverse customer base.

“Its central midtown position gives retailers high exposure to daily pedestrian traffic, including city workers, shoppers, students, tourists and the almost 40,000 people who are estimated to live in the central city.”

Parmar says Chancery Square’s eight remaining leases range in size from 13sq m to 155sq m.

“With Freyberg Place due to reopen soon, we’re expecting interest in these remaining leases to ramp up.”

Retail openings

High-profile midtown retail openings:

  • Timberland (footwear), 5 High St — opened early-2016.
  • Flo & Frankie (fashion and lifestyle), 5 High St — opened mid-2016.
  • Gorman (fashion retailer), corner of High St and Vulcan Lane — opened mid-2017.
  • Aesop (skincare retailer), 35 High St — fit out underway, due to open mid-2017
  • AS Colour (fashion retailer), 48 High St — due to open late-2017
  • Toni&Guy (hairdressing salon), Chancery Square — due to open mid-2017

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Chloe Franklin-Hall and Nilesh Patel of Colliers International