Construction of a new retail and lifestyle hub for Melbourne’s outer north commenced last month, with QICGRE turning the sod on a 6700sqm development at the heart of Merrifield – Victoria’s largest mixed-use masterplanned community.
For the 4000 residents who already call the greenfield estate in Mickleham home, the $40m-plus first stage of Merrifield City is set to provide a major leap forward in liveability when it opens in late 2020, including the area’s first Coles supermarket. The delivery of quality retail and lifestyle experiences well in advance of the estate’s 20-year development horizon typifies the human-centred approach taken by QICGRE in joint venture with Merrifield developers MAB Corporation and Gibson Property Corporation.
Flanked by two mini-majors and around 20 specialty stores, including essential services and casual dining, the new Coles-anchored shopping destination will make daily life a whole lot simpler and more efficient for local homeowners, as well as those employed at Merrifield Business Park. Designed to evolve with Merrifield’s burgeoning resident and worker populations, this highly anticipated development represents only the opening chapter in QICGRE’s vision for a 300,000sqm satellite CBD with next-generation retail at its core.
Daryl Stubbings, Director – Australian Investment Management, explains: “Merrifield City will balance the current needs of this new community with its future aspirations; launching with a considered grocery and services-led offer in 2020 and evolving over time into a major retail and lifestyle hub housing best-in-class shopping, dining, civic and cultural experiences.”
He continues: “Responsibly delivered in stages over a multi-year horizon, this asset will capture the potential arising from substantial investment in Melbourne’s northern growth corridor, benefitting from easy access to the Hume Freeway and planned Outer Metropolitan Ring Road.”
Having taken a 50 per cent stake in the greenfield site back in 2014, QICGRE identified the Merrifield masterplan initiated by MAB and GPC as a clear strategic fit with its own commitment to creating mixed-use town centres for communities that are positioned for rapid growth. Through this shared vision, more than 8000 new dwellings, approximately 30,0000 jobs and public amenity of the highest environmental and liveability standards are being established.
Designed as a walkable neighbourhood where families can live as close as possible to everything they need, while still less than an hour from central Melbourne by car or train, Merrifield is quickly becoming a beacon for a new mode of urban living. With the population of the total trade area expected to exceed 140,000 people by 2031, retail spend is forecast to increase from $763m to $2.7bn between 2020 and 2036 (Urbis, 2016).
As Melbourne continues on its path to toppling Sydney as Australia’s most populous city, real estate developers are getting on with creating the conditions that people and businesses require to thrive. Merrifield has already drawn some of the globe’s biggest brands to take advantage of its locational advantage as a manufacturing and distribution base, paint brand Dulux and German hypermarket giant Kaufland among them. Meanwhile, the lifestyle needs of the community have been brought firmly to the fore this month with the simultaneous commencement of construction work at Merrifield City and a public bus route connecting to Donnybrook and Craigieburn train stations.
Speaking at the sod-turning ceremony for Merrifield City, Hume City Mayor Cr Carly Moore commented: “This development is not only good for local industry but will also set the benchmark for a lifestyle centre that helps fulfil the needs of the community here with new shopping and dining opportunities.” She also alluded to the diversity of employment opportunities being created that will give people back time that they would otherwise have to spend commuting, with new jobs at Merrifield City topping up the thousands to be generated at the adjacent $1.2bn business park.
Merrifield City will celebrate the power of food to bring people together from day one, complementing the community’s first major supermarket with convivial all-day dining and café options as well as vendors of globally inspired ingredients and artisanal food purveyors. Residents will also find banking and beauty services on-site, plus a chemist, post office and children’s play zone. A 350-space carpark will ensure convenient access for locals and visitors alike, day and night.
In tandem with the proposed expansion of Merrifield City, and aligned with the mission of QICGRE to serve the whole-life needs of the communities it serves, a range of education and sports facilities are due to be delivered at Merrifield within the next two years. Residents are also being encouraged to make the most of doorstep access to expansive parkland via new cycleways, walking trails and outdoor gathering spaces.
The suburban dream of the 20-minute neighbourhood where you can work, shop, socialise and learn where you live materialised powerfully in 2013 when home buyers camped out to secure a block within the first Merrifield land release. Translating the Merrifield vision into reality called for no less than the combined expertise of MAB, GPC and QICGRE spanning residential, commercial, industrial and retail real estate development and management.
Growing a new city, explains Darryl Stubbings, requires long-term, honest and effective collaboration between commercial parties, government stakeholders and community leaders. “This partnership represents an exciting chapter in the 30-year history of QICGRE and we are proud to partner with the Merrifield community to deliver a dynamic city centre that we can all be proud of from the ground up,” he adds.
Matthew Planner, General Manager of Communities at MAB, says: “From our first conversations with the team at QICGRE we could tell we were aligned in our commitment to an early, staged delivery of retail amenity and key services, rather than keeping the community waiting too long.” He continues: “We care a lot about the quality of our design and development outcomes because we want people to be proud of and linger in the places we create. QICGRE is absolutely the right partner to deliver on that front because they also care that we keep our ear to the ground, listening to those who live and work here and feeding those insights into our work.”
Speaking on behalf of MAB and GPC, Planner adds: “We’re thrilled QICGRE is playing a part in our most visionary development to date and believe Merrifield City will be the binding element of this community. Together we are crafting a lifestyle and business destination that will redefine Melbourne’s north.”
Learnings stemming from QICGRE’s long-term investment in Melbourne’s east and west – including substantial redevelopments at Eastland, Watergardens and Woodgrove – will undoubtedly benefit the Merrifield community, not to mentioned retail and hospitality operators looking for first-mover advantage in one of Australia’s fastest growing municipalities. You only need visit Ringwood Town Square on a summer evening or roam the recently opened fresh food precinct at Castle Towers in outer Sydney to see that hospitality-led architecture and experiential retail design are pillars of QICGRE’s portfolio. Creating welcoming communal spaces where individuals at different life stages can come together, form new daily rituals and interact with neighbours is embedded in both the QICGRE design ethos and Merrifield masterplan. This is why the first iteration of Merrifield City promises convenience while also paving the way for new community traditions and cultural opportunities.
Merrifield resident Joe Conte says being able to walk to the supermarket in five minutes or pop in on the way home from work, rather than plotting out a Saturday grocery shop, is going to make a big difference to his food-obsessed family. “At the moment my wife and I visit a few different shops about 20 minutes from here to find all the ingredients we need for the week but having a major supermarket down the road is going to be brilliant,” he explains. “I think seeing this level of investment and activity in our community is going to create a bit of buzz and encourage more people to make their home here,” he adds.
To find out more, visit merrifieldcity.com.au.