Frasers Property Australia is building communities worth leaving the house for
The town centre used to be a place where neighbours would gather, discuss the news of the day, and form a cohesive community. Urban sprawl and ecommerce have changed that dynamic, but Frasers Property Australia is bringing that sense of community back — with a 21st century twist. Frasers Property’s super-neighbourhood centres provide a venue for local retailers to be part of their communities and for residents to have a place to gather, dine, and be entertained.
“After considerable research, we pioneered the concept of the super-neighbourhood centre, generally defined as a centre 10,000 to 30,000 square metres in size, anchored by a supermarket, and with a mix of retailers specifically tailored to the local catchment, with an entertainment and food and beverage focus,” Executive General Manager for Retail Peri Macdonald told VENTURE. “In other words, the convenience of a local neighbourhood centre on a larger scale.
“Our centres support our residential communities and our knowledge of what our residential customers want — and indeed who they are — enables us to tailor centres that meet their needs, so they can feel a degree of ownership in their local centre.”
A shining example of the approach is Burwood Brickworks in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs. Frasers Property purchased the site in 2015 and restored the area to its former glory.
“We saw it as an opportunity to take a disused, middle-ring site with a rich history in an area undergoing gentrification, and do something different and ground-breaking there,” Macdonald said. “It also suited our diversified model and mixed-use capability, to leave a positive legacy in the local community.
“We have a long history of creating sustainable developments and the mandate to innovate further. The blank canvas site at Burwood Brickworks was perfect for a company unafraid to aspire to something beyond what had been attempted in retail before.”
Clean, Beautiful, and Efficient
That commitment to sustainability isn’t just lip service. At Burwood Brickworks, Frasers Property had to meet the rigorous performance standards of the Living Future Institute of Australia’s Living Building Challenge (LBC), which calls for building projects to “operate as cleanly, beautifully, and efficiently as nature’s architecture.” Accomplishing this on the scale of a retail complex was no easy feat. It came with the help of the Living Future Institute of Australia, the local Whitehorse City Council, anchor tenants Woolworths and Reading Cinemas, as well as specialty tenant customers.
“It’s a complex process, it has taken a deep commitment not only from Frasers Property but our tenant customers as well, and there is no retail precedent, so we’ve had to be prepared to learn as we’ve gone along,” Macdonald said. “We knew there would be challenges in the planning, design, construction, and leasing stages. Ultimately, these challenges affect the bottom line.
“We were willing to invest additional capital in green initiatives based on a business case that will see that additional investment returned, with interest, over the life cycle of the centre. In addition to more efficient operating costs, the requirements of the LBC around biophilic and human centred design as well as a focus on urban agriculture, beauty, spirit, and education means that the centre will be truly unique. This will lead to greater penetration within an expanded catchment as well as increased dwell time, all leading to additional turnover above benchmark and therefore additional income.”
Sustainability is about culture as much as it about environment. Frasers Property made sure to pay homage Burwood’s history in the new retail complex.
“At Burwood Brickworks, connections to the site’s history and its place in Melbourne are considered in the design approach. We have recognised the traditional owners of the land through a collaboration with indigenous art curator, Balarinji, bringing local indigenous artist Mandy Nicholson in to produce an extraordinary piece of artwork that will adorn the main ceiling of the mall. The artwork interprets the original topography and waterways of the local area.”
It's All about the Experience
Whilst many have lamented ecommerce as the death of the retail centre, Macdonald welcomes the challenge.
“It might be an unpopular opinion, but I think the growth in online shopping has had a positive impact on new shopping centre development. It demands more. But if you want to create assets that play a long-term role in the local communities they serve, this should be embraced,” he said.
“New retail sites need to be more than simply places to buy things. They need to provide an experience, be an entertainment destination, and play a social role.
“It has to be comfortable as well. This is where the concept of biophilic design is important. Biophilic design seeks to create stronger connections between people and nature, resulting in elevated comfort levels. At Brickworks, extensive indoor greenery, seamless connections to the surrounding parklands, and a diverse mix of tenants all aligned with our vision for the centre will create a memorable experience that will be much more than just a place to shop.”
Frasers Property is leading the charge in building the neighbourhoods of the 21st century.
“Local communities, rightly, demand more. The nature of the way we live is evolving. More people will live in apartments in the future. It’s already happening. But the need for people to access open space, recreational facilities, places to unwind, relax, and socialise does not disappear. These amenities must be provided in new community development,” Macdonald said. “An engaging local super-neighbourhood centre is an integral part of this amenity provision. It can serve multiple purposes as more and more people inhabit smaller homes. It can be an extension to their backyard, their lounge room, even their dining room.”
That makes us feel right at home.