Coast Plaza mall in Whangaparaoa was put on the market recently after negotiations for purchase by Tinline Properties fell through.
The 3.25ha centre includes six large tenancies and 47 specialty stores. Currently around nine are vacant – nearly 17 percent. Latest figures from Barfoot & Thompson put retail vacancy rates for Whangaparaoa at four percent. One of the large Plaza tenancies was vacated by Number One Shoes three years ago and has been only temporarily filled with pop ups and markets. Recently the markets relocated to Whangaparaoa Hall after a dispute over public liability insurance.
Buskers have also been moved on. Nick Jones of Stanmore Bay has been busking at the centre for three years. He says he was told in July that buskers were no longer wanted, and he hasn’t been back. Until recently, Oyster Management handled management of the complex. Its head of leasing, Vaughan Ludlam, says that there is no prohibition of buskers generally. “Any permission is managed with consideration to the interests of the tenants and customers of the centre,” he says.
What is undeniable is the level of uncertainty felt by some of the centre’s store-owners. Firstly there is the question of what may happen if the site is sold – the deadline for offers was August 30.
Retailers are also troubled by the possibility that large tenants Farmers and Whitcoulls, and also Stevens, all owned by James Pascoe Group, might leave this summer to move to the centre that Farmers is building in Millwater.
Retailers say they have heard from staff at those stores that they are relocating but James Pascoe’s management will give no comment when pressed by Hibiscus Matters. The store-owners, who do not wish to be identified, say that Coast Plaza’s owner, Greenwhale Holdings (sole director Shahin Kermani) has known that those anchor businesses could go for years and tenants just want some certainty.
There are more immediate problems too. An air conditioning fault has seen temperatures as low as 7°C recorded in one part of the centre this winter; retailers say this has been ongoing since May. Customers have complained and some businesses have provided blankets, while staff have had to wear scarves, jackets and beanies.
Management of the complex changed on September 1 from Oyster Management to Colliers International. Vaughan Ludlam of Oyster told Hibiscus Matters on August 23 that the air conditioning will be fixed, in around four weeks.
Colliers’ real estate management national director, Richard James, says that the company will conduct a full review of the management of the centre. “This will include a technical and service review of plant and equipment,” he says.
Retailers say that there are many benefits to being in such a central position in a growing area and that investment in the facility will reap rewards. A lot therefore depends on whether it is sold and who buys it.