harbour town

Harbour Town will get a $150 million facelift and a new name among changes to the Docklands precinct that will see the arrival of international retailer H&M and Woolworths.

Experts say the troubled mall, which will be rebranded The District Docklands in the coming months, will still have its challenges due to its fringe location.

H&M will form the centrepiece of the revitalised, full-price retail offering. Construction of an eight-cinema Hoyts and an entertainment concept by Funlab began in May, while a dining precinct is set to open in mid-2018.

The final stage of the redevelopment will include a fresh food marketplace, called The District Market, anchored by Woolworths and complemented by a variety of international and Melbourne provedores.

While Harbour Town has had a less-than-successful past, Con Stavros, associate professor of marketing at RMIT, says the rebranding and redevelopment might be the missing pieces of the precinct’s puzzle.

“It has got its challenges, because that fringe outside of the CBD is a tricky one; it doesn’t mean it can’t work though,” Mr Stavros said.

“The new branding definitely ties it in a bit more. Harbour Town didn’t really mean anything; and ‘harbour’ is more of a Sydney term than a Melbourne term, whereas The District Docklands might be a stronger link as people are familiar with Docklands; it gives the precinct a clear platform. They really need to spend a few million promoting it though,” Mr Stavros said.

Acquired by Sydney private real estate investment group AsheMorgan in 2014, the centre has already undergone an extensive aesthetic upgrade, including the installation of all-weather roofing.

Alton Abrahams, AsheMorgan principal, says The District Docklands draws inspiration from Melbourne’s iconic laneways and hopes it will become a connected extension of the CBD, while embracing a distinctly Docklands vibe.

“We recognise that the creation of a welcoming, comfortable and appealing environment for our customers will be critical to the success of The District Docklands going forward,” he said.

“Knowing that we will be an all-weather centre before the end of the year takes us another step closer to cementing a great customer retail experience in Docklands, year round.”

Mr Stavros said that H&M and Woolworths are important inclusions.

“The challenge will be getting people there that haven’t been before, and while H&M might not be exclusive, it certainly helps, in both getting customers there and attracting other brands. It’s an important retailer to have and is a good anchor.

“Similarly, as we have seen in major shopping centres, Woolies and Coles are good at driving people to the area. The more stores there are, the longer people will stay and the more likely they are to spend and have a positive shopping experience,” he said.

Harbour Town Melbourne’s marketing director, Kelly Jensen agrees.

“This is definitely the Docklands transformation Melburnians have been waiting for. H&M will be the first of many exciting announcements to complement our existing retail offering,” she said.

“We want our shoppers to begin to imagine different and join us on what is going to be a truly transformative journey that will incorporate a series of exciting new precinct openings between now and the end of 2019 — including the arrival of a number of first-to-Melbourne brands.”

Hotel brand Marriott are also set to build a 200-room hotel and 110 residential apartments above the existing shopping centre, which is expected to be another significant drawcard for travellers and tourists visiting the Docklands area.

Did you see that the AFL revealed their redevelopment plans for Etihad Stadium? Find out more here.

This article was written by Anna Byrne and originally appeared in the Herald Sun on August 15, 2017.