Developer Sandhurst Retail has lodged a development application with Whittlesea Council for a $40 million neighbourhood centre in Wollert, one of the state's fastest-growing regions.
The build-and-hold retail developer has engaged Dutch architecture firm OMA to design the 9000sq m mixed-use retail centre, which will also incorporate childcare, health and wellbeing amenities and public spaces.
The Wollert Town Centre—one of two Sandhurst projects slated for development within the Wollert Precinct Structure Plan (PSP) in Melbourne's northern growth corridor—will be located between Jardin Road and Veerings Road, on land purchased from Villawood Properties last year.
While Sandhurst retail director Vivek Subramanian admits he’d be “foolish” not to acknowledge the economic challenges posed by the Covid-19 outbreak, he remains optimistic about the outlook for Sandhurst’s “aggressive” pipeline, with their first projects still three to five years away from delivery.
“These are certainly interesting times—but no one’s Robinson Crusoe here,” Subramanian said.
“We’re keeping a close eye on it and like all businesses we’ll have to evolve, but we’re confident things will work out.
“The sophistication of the responses of people and businesses are showing towards each other is really encouraging, people are stepping up, as they should be.
“Landlords like us—who build and manage assets long-term—are looking at how people shop, and bricks and mortar centres in growth corridors are an exciting place to be.”
Unfazed by recent news of Whittlesea Council's sacking, Subramanian said Sandhurst had a "great relationship" with both the council and the planning authority, who collaborated in the preparation of the Wollert PSP.
"We don't foresee any issues—we're very happy with the positivity expressed by both council and the VPA in regards to the community focus of our proposals," Subramanian said.
"We've worked closely with council's urban design and landscape teams on the community aspects of our plan to help bring to life our vision of a civic destination, a centre that's evolved beyond pure retail."
OMA's regional director Paul Jones said the firm identified with Sandhurst's aims.
“We see many subregional centres that contribute positively in an economic context, but in terms of how they fit into the environment and how they contribute to the locale from a social and community perspective, there is certainly room to improve.
“Our client recognises the common patterns and wants to rethink this type of project, taking on more responsibility and leaving behind a legacy that benefits the community beyond its immediate retail needs—we really identify with this vision,” Jones said.
Along with the Wollert Town Centre, Sandhurst has projects slated for Sunbury and Yamanto, in Queensland's Ripley growth corridor.
Works on the Wollert centre are expected to commence in 2023.