DevelopmentsFor lease

Investor ready for action

24 November 2010


The construction industry and the economy has been stopped in its tracks, but one Tauranga property investment company is positioning itself for the inevitable recovery.

JWL Investment Trust, which established the Gate Pa Shopping Centre six years ago, is now spending about $4 million upgrading it - including building a 2000 sq m store for Spotlight, New Zealand's largest fabric, craft and home decorating retailer.

The investment company has also started architecturally-designed business villages in Courtney Rd, below the Gate Pa Shopping Centre, and at the bottom of Hamilton St overlooking Waikareao Estuary.

As well, JWL Investment has plans to develop the 3600 sq m Hirequip site that has stood idle for 18 months on the corner of 15th Avenue and Burrows St. It has two resource consents for office or retail development on the site, and it will be taking its plans to the market next month.

JWL Investment - its director is Brookfield New World owner/operator Dean Waddell - is showing plenty of confidence in the future of Tauranga as a business centre.
Peter Williams, the company's development manager, is both surprised and delighted at the interest shown in the latest projects.

"Certainly retailers are seeing a change in the [economic] situation," he said.

"There will be a greater retail spend in 18 months to two years, and retailers want to position themselves in good sites now and capitalise on it in 2012.
"If you wait two years and then start building, you could miss the boat," said Mr Williams.

The Gate Pa Shopping Centre upgrade follows the $15 million extension at the Bayfair Mall, the opening of Pak N Save Food Warehouse at Papamoa, and the Fraser Cove expansion through the addition of a Countdown supermarket.

Already, fast food giant KFC has moved into the Gate Pa centre, revamping the Red Rooster outlet fronting Cameron Rd.

Radius Pharmacy, which has 35 pharmacies throughout the country, is also returning in April, after moving out soon after the new shopping centre was opened.

Mr Williams said two other Australian bulk retailers - new to the region - were also looking at setting up alongside Spotlight which will be located behind the strip of speciality stores.

Spotlight, a family-owned Australian business employing a total of 6700 staff, will become Gate Pa Shopping Centre's third anchor tenant, along with New World supermarket and Mitre 10 Mega Tauranga.

"It's fantastic for the centre and its tenants, and it's great for the Tauranga community.
"Spotlight has never been in Tauranga before and they have been looking for the right site for nearly 10 years," said Mr Williams.

"This location gives them brand exposure and access to the car park.

Spotlight believed the changes taking place at the shopping centre will drive customers here."

Marra Construction is completing the shopping centre upgrade - it will be completed by the middle of next year - and the builders have started installing the walls of the big Spotlight store. The roof will go on before Christmas and JWL Investment will hand over the building to Spotlight in April, with the big retailer opening in the middle of next year.

Spotlight now has stores throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia - and Tauranga will be the 17th in this country.

At the Gate Pa Shopping Centre, a modern arcade, using natural lighting, is being built that will link the car park and the front of the shopping centre with the entrance to Spotlight at the back.

Shoppers will stroll past Radius Pharmacy, taking up 180 sq m in the arcade.
"We've just built a medical centre nearby and Radius has regained confidence that it can service businesses in the area - prescriptions are a big thing for them," said Mr Williams.

In other work, Coin Save has been re-located next door to Bakers Delight and the shop has been demolished to create space for a vehicle driveway through to the Mitre 10 Mega car park.

The entrance to the Mega car park is being realigned and traffic will be controlled by a new roundabout on Munro St.

Down that street onto Cameron Rd, new traffic lights make it easy for vehicles to turn onto the busy main road.

The Marra contractors strengthened a corner, next to Courtney Rd, at the back of the shopping centre site to create more space for bulk retailing and access for the big delivery trucks.

They sunk 28 piles, 600mm in diameter, into the ground, 14.5 metres deep, and formed a solid concrete wall alongside the bank. "It created a route for the B-train trucks," said Aaron McCormick, Marra Construction's site manager.

"We are maximising the land by looking at geotechnical issues and using innovative [engineering] solutions," said Mr Williams.

"We might even look at plans of going over the edge of the bank but that will be tenant driven. There is still potential to expand the Gate Pa centre."

The day I chatted with Mr Williams the shopping centre seemed busier and more energetic. "It's a heck of a lot more vibrant than it was," Mr Williams said. "The car park is fuller, and there are more people here - it's a busier place.

"Gate Pa is coming of age as a retail centre - and it does take time. The activity has stayed consistent over the last 12 months as other major brands have seen the benefit of being at the shopping centre.

"KFC was offered space at the start and six years later they are now on the site. And we've got Spotlight.

"The whole of Gate Pa can be a vibrant area - with a link from the shopping centre to Fraser Cove and a new business village in the middle," said Mr Williams.

Halfway down Courtney Rd, on the right, is the new two-storey Te Manu Toroa medical centre, the first stage of the Gate Pa Business Village.

JWL Investment bought two hectares of the low-lying land from previous owner, Cr Murray Guy, and has plans for an affordable business centre.

The rentals for new premises are below those demanded in the Tauranga central business district (CBD). "We are catering for small and medium enterprises which will never be CBD tenants, but still want well-designed offices, and will move out of the older houses in Fraser St and Cameron Rd," said Mr Williams.

After the medical centre was completed, JWL Investment signed up another tenant for a 500 sq m two-level building and this will be completed by Brunel Construction in May next year. It will become the regional head office for a service provider.

"We never anticipated this sort of interest in the site," Mr Williams said.

JWL Investment rezoned the land from Residential A to Commercial in a private plan change, and it has room to build seven more small office buildings, ranging in size from 500-800 sq m. "Or we could build one large building," he said.

"We are being careful about construction by using lighter weight materials and letting the core of the buildings - the internal office walls - become the structure.

"In this way, we can make higher use of poorer land and build what the market will accept," Mr Williams said.

Across town, JWL Investment is completing earthworks for the English-styled CitySide Business Village in Hamilton St next to the boardwalk.

It is the site where 69 apartments, a swimming pool, spa and gymnasium, and a conference room for 70 people were planned, at a cost of $35 million - but the CitySide Apartments development, first promoted in 2005, didn't get off the ground.

Instead, new owner JWL Investment has plans for 2000 sq m of office space spread over seven small and separate buildings.

Designed by F+D=A Architecture in Auckland, the two-level buildings will feature brick, classical lighting and signage, grasses, pavers and some cobblestones. The new office precinct gives the appearance of a quaint English village and is based on the Monaco Resort design in Nelson.

"The offices will have plenty of window space, bathrooms and kitchens - you would be proud enough to have them in your own home," said Mr Williams.

Marra Construction will start building over the next month - stage one is three buildings of 200, 300 and 500 sq m in size, to be completed by May.

JWL Investment at present has tenancy interest from four businesses, and it will eventually have seven or eight tenants taking up space between 100-500 sq m.

"There will be a broad range of professional businesses operating there. The business village will be something different, and what you have is a local private investor [Dean Waddell] who is passionate about Tauranga," said Mr Williams.