More than 500 hungry shoppers queued in Wollongong Central last week, clamouring to be first inside the city’s newly relocated David Jones store.
Taking over the former site of rival department store Myer – which closed in Wollongong in 2015 – the three-level store is the centrepiece in a much-needed revamp of some of the older parts of GPT’s retail precinct.
As the ribbon was cut and the doors opened, most in the crowd made a beeline for the basement food level, which is the first of David Jones’ “new format” food halls to open across Australia.
The store’s managing director of food, Pieter De Wet said the hall had been stacked with more than 5500 fresh and packaged food wares.
The food market includes an eat-in restaurant designed by Neil Perry, as well as a butchery, florist, bakery, sushi bar and quick office-friendly takeaway section.
“We are positioning these foods exactly to the same customers who historically shop at David Jones – a customer that has an appreciation for good food,” he said.
“I think they will see this as a place you can shop daily and weekly, not just once or twice a season.”
As the hoards spilled into David Jones, GPT’s regional manager Antony Keenan said the opening marked the end of a two-year, $90 million makeover for the shopping centre.
Mr Keenan said he hoped the investment and would make Wollongong a “destination” shopping centre.
“All of this really complements our CBD, making Wollongong a destination for not only retail but for socialising and food as well,” he said.
The south Keira Street building has undergone the biggest change, with new entryways, large-scale public art and an opening into Globe Lane to give access to the big-name stores.
“It’s all about celebrating the laneways, enhancing what’s been successful in the past,” he said.
“We’re also highlighting the idea of an experience – and we’ve seen the same thing with brands like Mecca, which is all about testing and teaching people not just shopping.”
He acknowledged that David Jones’ move from the corner of Crown and Church street had left a large vacancy in the Wollongong CBD.
While GPT does not own the building, Mr Keenan said he hoped to see it redeveloped into shops, entertainment or commercial space.
“That space does provide an opportunity, so we don’t know what it’s going to be.
‘’But we’d love to see complementary retail, entertainment or even mixed-use commercial and retail together would be a great outcome for the city,” he said.
More photos at Illawarramercury website.