THE retail segment in Darwin in 2017 will experience its greatest shake-up for many years when not one, but two new regional shopping centres open their doors for business.
Gateway is located on the highway on the fringe of the Palmerston CBD, 18km southeast of Darwin.
This is a joint venture project between the Coombes Property Group, with local connections, and Challenger, being constructed by Hutchinsons. It will offer a Woolworths, Big W, cinema complex and over 100 specialties and is expected to open midyear.
Also expected to open midyear is Coolalinga Village, in the Darwin rural area, 25km southeast of the city on the opposite side of the track from a large Woolworths-based complex.
Coolalinga Village is being developed by Gwelo, a longstanding Darwin developer and will be anchored by Coles and Kmart.
There is already a fast food outlet and a service station on the site, but the main development will accommodate additional specialties with further stages already planned.
We will therefore move from a situation where Darwin’s main growth corridor to the southeast has been under-serviced by retail for many years to a situation where Palmerston and rural area residents will be spoiled for choice.
Not only will these two major centres be an option, but also new smaller centres at Bakewell, Rosebery, Bellamack and Zuccoli which are already trading or, in the case of Zuccoli, will be trading soon.
Add to this the existing Palmerston Shopping Centre and Oasis Shopping Centre and the options are quite wide.
The effects on the rental market for retail space remain to be seen but the increased competitive tension between all these centres does result in some choices for tenants which have not always been available in the past.
This may place some downward pressure on rents, however if each centre can attract sufficient patronage, this may not be the case.
Certainly there will be some effect on Casuarina, which is currently Darwin’s dominant retail precinct. Casuarina is disadvantaged by its location in the northern suburbs, which is close to the hospital and university, but somewhat removed from the southeast urban growth corridor. Casuarina is already reinventing itself as a destination, with a new restaurant/entertainment precinct, rather than just a mall retailer.
Anecdotal evidence is pointing to population decline across Darwin and unless a major employment driver emerges soon, then this population decline will inevitably result in reduced trading for all retailers and difficulties for each centre attracting sufficient patronage.
We are seeing weakness across all property segments in Darwin and the challenge will be to ensure sufficient population growth to ensure the viability of all these new outlets as well as existing facilities.