Eastlakes Live boss: Food, Millennials ‘key’ to success of Sydney’s future town centres

Visionary: Crown Group Chairman and Group CEO Iwan Sunito. Picture: Tim Hunter

A TASTE of European-style “community togetherness” — driven largely by food — and tapping into the needs of influential Millennials will be the keys to creating “successful, warm, vibrant” town centres in the future across Sydney, a major developer says.

Iwan Sunito, founder and CEO of Crown Group, said the Harbour City’s shopping centres should mirror Mediterranean CBDs which make food the main ingredient of the town’s “meeting places”.

The boss of one of Australia’s biggest property development companies said this theme would be central to Crown’s new $1 billion Eastlakes Live mixed-use development, to feature 12 retail outlets, a restaurant promenade dotted with cafes and more than 500 apartments.

“What we want to promote within our communities is cooking and being a place where people can meet and, for example, make pizza together in open fires,” Indonesian-born Mr Sunito told the Southern Courier. “It will be done in a modern way but still have a feeling of history, tradition and warmness. It’s something that’s done very well in countries like Italy and brings the community together.”

He predicts the Sydney’s retail sector will have a bright future — but it must bring its business models into the 21st century’s “digital age of convenience”.

“What used to be a three-minute microwave generation, for the Millennials even one second is too long; they want everything instantly,” Mr Sunito said.

The new Eastlakes Live project.

“A lot of traditional retail shops are dying, simply because they are not offering more than a place to shop. By contrast, you are seeing more Millennial-targeted shops growing where it’s not necessarily about what they are buying, but what they remember of being there.”

INDUSTRY REFORM

Mr Sunito’s comments come as the NSW Government prepares to update its retail strategy after an independent expert committee last year called for reforms to the state’s $96 billion industry.

The planning department has released a discussion paper which calls for “more clustering of retail that will provide easy, multipurpose, frequent shopping”.

The Crown Group supremo said the Eastlakes development — where Stage 1 of construction is under way on Gardeners Rd — was in line with the government’s retail planning push.

An artist’s impression of a retail section of Eastlakes Live.

“Retail becomes a very important thing when people are looking at a better lifestyle, and it’s why you are seeing more of the mixed-use developments across Sydney,” said Mr Sunito, who studied architecture and construction at the University of NSW.

“People are now more focused on lifestyle, convenience, access to jobs, health, education and transport; all this has become a priority in our lives.

“(Our town centre) will include a Woolworths or Coles, as well as Aldi … and beyond that, the majority will be about food.”

NEW RETAIL ROLE

The online threat would accelerate the need for retailers to embrace their role in a broader “community space”.

The Crown Group’s Eastlakes Live is expected to be a vibrant retail and community centre.

“E-commerce is growing at 12 per cent a year and retail is going to be impacted significantly in the future by this. But the shopping centres will still be a meeting place for people, and even more so in the future. And this is where I see the retail landscape of the future across Sydney, this shifting towards the community space and more and more people getting together.”

‘WALKABLE LOCAL CENTRES’

THE Greater Sydney Commission is tipping retail will play a pivotal role in the eastern suburbs’ remodelled CBDs.

Its 40-year vision has revealed Eastern City District, part of a “Metropolis of Three Cities” including Central River City and Western City District, will need to accommodate about 1.8 million square metres of additional retail floor space over the next 20 years.

The Greater Sydney Commission’s 40-year vision is for a three-city metropolis where residents will be travel to work and community hubs within 30 minutes.

Greater Sydney social commissioner Heather Nesbitt said it would be important that planning “encourages innovative retail experiences including pop-ups, festivals and local markets” that help centres “thrive, support the local economy and build social cohesion”.

“Retail has the potential to help shape our three cities,” she said. “We need to acknowledge that retail as we know it is changing and we need to be adaptable in our planning. For example, physical shopfronts still play an important role in the sector, but their functions and purposes will change as technology evolves..”

Ms Nesbitt, an expert in social infrastructure planning, said combining retail with other core services would help create “vibrant, walkable local centres”.

“We want to see centres that are active people places.”

BIG JOBS GROWTH

RANDWICK Council is updating its planning controls and strategies to keep pace with the State Government’s key targets for CBD and jobs growth.

The Greater Sydney Commission’s Eastern City District Plan — driven by commissioner Maria Atkinson — expects an employment increase in Randwick City’s strategic centres of between 12,400 and 18,400 new jobs over the next two decades.

Maria Atkinson.

Randwick Council’s 20-year city plan says it needs to “build” on existing attractions in town centres and “support their responsiveness to retail trends (and) new technologies”.

“We are currently conducting reviews of planning controls for the Randwick and Kingsford/Kensington town centres. These are at various stages,” a council spokesman said. Other town centres will be reviewed when Randwick’s economic development strategy is updated in 2018/19.

Bayside Council was contacted for comment.

$96B INDUSTRY OVERHAUL

IT’S worth $96 billion a year to the NSW economy, but new data has revealed retail is in decline.

The rise of online shopping has led to a 10 per cent fall in the number of businesses across Sydney since 2010, according to a NSW Planning Department discussion paper.

“Retail is changing,” it says. “Globalisation and technology have significantly heightened competitive pressures on local retailers and driven dramatic changes to customer behaviour and expectations.” It points out 42 per cent of retailers now offer click and collect, up 24 per cent from 2015.

Shoppers are set to have an even more enjoyable experience in the future at Sydney centres.

Retail remains one of NSW’s biggest economic drivers, employing one in every 10 workers and with twice the share of jobs than financial and insurance services.

An independent expert committee last year called for an end to “ad hoc” retail development and inconsistent land-use outcomes across Sydney.

NEW VIRTUAL SHOPPING REALITY

SMART fridges and hi-tech pantries that create shopping lists and order for us; the humble supermarket trolley being transformed into a tablet-equipped, slick machine which helps you find the specials; and other gadgets that make your weekly shop as easy as opening the front door to receive your groceries.

Welcome to the future of shopping — where time-poor people will have their favourite food and drinks delivered before even realising they ran out of them.

Social researcher Mark McCrindle knows how our retail world, is set to look in the future.

“The future of shopping will be this end-to-end transformation,” the futurist said.

A smart fridge revolution is already happening.

“It will start at home with our connected devices, from smart fridges to more technology even in the pantry that’s able to keep us up with what’s happening in stock levels on heavily-used items, creating automated shopping lists and sending them to our devices which will interact with the in-store technology to create that useful, efficient experience, as well as individualising those offers.”

And when it comes to clothes shopping, Mr McCrindle said virtual reality would play a bigger role, making it feel like we’ve stepped into The Matrix.

Source: Matt Taylor, “Eastlakes Live boss: Food, Millennials ‘key’ to success of Sydney’s future town centres”, The Daily Telegraph, July 10, 2018.

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Eastlakes Live boss: Food, Millennials ‘key’ to success of Sydney’s future town centres