During the course of last year Urban Melbourne touched upon the sizeable regeneration of the St James complex which at its heart included a rejuvenated urban plaza and increased retail spaces in order to enliven the otherwise underutilised public space.
Initially designed by international architectural firm Skidmore Owings Merrill and completed during 1969, the recent redevelopment coupled with prime frontage to Bourke Street and William Street has allowed St James to not only remain relevant but provided the opportunity to create a new type of retail focus in the CBD's ever changing retail sector.
In order to further understand St James from a retail perspective Urban Melbourne spoke with CBRE Manager of Retail Leasing, Zelman Ainsworth.
Key to St James' retail strategy was to initiate a village style retail experience that differentiates itself from other CBD retail hubs. No mass marketing was conducted while leasing the 24 available retail spaces, rather a considered process of hand-picking retailers was undertaken in order to generate the correct mix of retail that otherwise doesn't exist within the CBD.
Live bands and evening trading Wednesday through Friday has assisted in establishing a relaxed, almost market atmosphere at the foot of the dual office buildings which are near on 100% leased. Zelman Ainsworth goes further to explain CBRE as leasing agent has and continues to seek out retailers with a story, that is no franchises but retailers who have created their own presence or vision which by and large began outside of Melbourne's CBD.
The most recent examples are Sorry, Thanks I Love You, Toms Shoes, Rollies and Il Migliore who have come on as pop up venues prior to the Christmas trading period. The designer retail brands are in addition to outlets such as Pok Pok Jnr, Famish’d and Simply Spanish who chose St James as their first first port of call beyond their South Melbourne Market digs.
This unique mix of boutique and first-time CBD retailers has paid dividends according to Zelman Ainsworth with all retailers trading above forecasts. Herringbone for example has found their St James outlet more lucrative than their corresponding Collins Street address.
With 5 of the available 24 available available for lease, the pop up stores have sought to activate these spaces in the interim. At about 90 square metres in size and carrying extra high ceilings, these pop up venues resemble galley spaces rather than screaming retail to prospective customers.
The renaissance of this part of the CBD has in part been brought on by the mass level of commercial and residential development occurring in the western reaches of the CBD and adjoining Docklands precinct. This has served to drag and/or expand the heart of the city core westward into the legal precinct with its concentration of high yielding tenants and workers.
Zelman Ainsworth noted that transient Docklands workers also utilise the area, giving further impetus to the boutique retail and leisure precinct which includes the predominantly food-based retail offerings of the neighbouring CBW complex and soon to open precinct at The William whose retail spaces will cater for residential needs.
Running north-south the trio of developments combined have heralded a new retail precinct of which St James is the most dynamic.