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‘They get the best properties in Perth, and stuff them up’: Sameness killing legacy CBD precincts

A prominent city building owner with intimate knowledge of the CBD retail scene said the MRA and others, like property fund manager Charter Hall, that developed precincts like Yagan and Raine were much to blame for the retail flops housed within each respective multi million-dollar hubs.

“Why would they internalise the majority of businesses and have customers eating inside or in a food court rather than engage with the public areas?” they said.

“And who are the MRA? They started as the East Perth Redevelopment Authority … now they get the best properties in Perth, and stuff them up.”

The building owner, who asked not to be identified, blamed the retail woes at CBD precincts on their developers and commercial leasing agents engaged to find tenants for them.

“There’s too much of the same old, same old, same old,” they said.

“Yagan Square was one of the worst decisions ever made, it’s not even a square.

“The same with Elizabeth Quay; why would you go there?”

Who are the MRA? They started as the East Perth Redevelopment Authority … now they get the best properties in Perth, and stuff them up.

Perth CBD building owner

They said commercial leasing agents often convinced business owners to move to a new precinct, fit out their space to attract more customers, then reaped the rewards while the businesses suffered from a combination of factors such as poor patronage and the wrong retail mix – such as at Yagan.

“Often tenants will fit out the properties, at great expense to them, which improves the quality of tenancy … but could possibly increase rates for the next tenant,” the building owner said.

Perth lost two of the world’s biggest fashion brands – Burberry and Emporio Armani – because another retail precinct Wesley Quarter failed to fire, something that could become a reality for Raine Square’s two new incoming ‘hero’ tenants Tiffany + Co and Louis Vuitton.

Down the road from Raine Square is Yagan Square and across the road is 140 William, with the now-closed Jamie's Restaurant seen here.

Down the road from Raine Square is Yagan Square and across the road is 140 William, with the now-closed Jamie’s Restaurant seen here.Credit:David Prestipino

Greenhill Galleries owner Paul Swain was a King Street committee member when the federal and state governments gave it funding to beautify the CBD street.

WAtoday recently reported his tenant Tiffany + Co was on the move to the new $200 million Raine Square precinct despite having an existing lease on King Street.

Mr Swain said he had no issue with luxury tenants moving to other areas of the city but questioned the merits of billion-dollar precinct developers like Charter Hall paying these sort of brands millions of dollars to leave what was an organic retail attraction for Perth in King Street.

“My issue is not with the tenants; it is with developers like Charter Hall,” he said.

“Perth runs the risk of losing our one quaint street, which is relatively intact. Every city around the world has one – London has Bond Street, for example.

“Oxford Street in Paddington (Sydney) was a vibrant shopping high street with all the top tables before Westfield Bondi Junction killed it.

“The same can be said for Chapel Street in South Yarra with Chadstone Shopping Centre.”

Mr Swain said famous faces would often walk along King Street when they came to Perth and wanted to “kill a bit of time”.

“They would come here for a look around … they’re not going to go to Yagan Square and Raine Square are they? Because they’re sick of seeing the same thing everywhere they go,” he said.

Mr Swain believed the many high-end tenants still on King Street would be reluctant to leave for Raine Square or any other shopping centre in Perth as “they love the European feel of the street”.

Raine Square tenants bemoan liquor store

Day-to-day customers don’t seem to be visiting Raine Square either, with internal tenants there also struggling.

One of the precinct’s major drawcards – Tim Ho Wan – has already been forced to close its doors due to poor patronage and high rent.

Tenants have complained the Liquorland inside Raine Square has led to anti-social behaviour at the precinct.

Tenants have complained the Liquorland inside Raine Square has led to anti-social behaviour at the precinct.Credit:David Prestipino

A Raine Square tenant told WAtoday there were social problems at the precinct, put down by some to the Liquorland outlet, which is next to a Coles and close to the main interior entrance.

“Business hasn’t been the greatest and we are in a prime position in the precinct,” the manager said.

“We have had problems in the past … they’re still ongoing to be honest.”

When WAtoday visited Raine Square a fortnight ago, a security guard was spotted at the Liquorland entrance while another roamed the front of the precinct, asking a man eating a sandwich on the seating outside to move his bike.

The precinct appears to suffer the same fate of 140 William, another retail and restaurant hub across the road from Raine Square that isn’t exactly humming with patrons and shoppers.

Committee for Perth’s Marion Fulker recently said precincts like Yagan Square and Elizabeth Quay were attracting communities and new audiences that engaged and connected with a place.

“Yagan Square, Elizabeth Quay – these are the physical spaces in creating a sense of place in Perth right now, and what’s needed to create Perth as a unique destination is a unique offering,” she said.

Charter Hall refused to comment on poor trade of retail tenants at Raine Square, or if it believed there was enough people in the CBD to service so many precincts within close proximity to each other.

The Sydney-based, billion-dollar property fund manager powerhouse also didn’t address its tenants’ ongoing concerns about anti-social behaviour due to the Liquorland outlet at Raine Square.

It instead issued a statement attributed to Raine Square general manager Derek Bromlewe:

“The Raine Square redevelopment has been a collaborative effort by Charter Hall, the City of Perth and State Government to bring new life and connectivity between a significant central CBD commercial and retail location along with Perth’s Yagan Square.

The MRA told many tenants at Market Hall the precinct will be a hub of activity on weekends.

The MRA told many tenants at Market Hall the precinct will be a hub of activity on weekends.

“Charter Hall has made a significant investment in the Raine Square redevelopment and we’re committed to its long-term success and its contribution to the vibrancy of Perth’s CBD.

“With further major investment planned by other property owners in the heart of the CBD retail precinct, city workers and visitors will have access to diverse retail, entertainment and dining offerings available.”

The MRA also did not address ongoing poor trade at Yagan Square or detail what specific actions were being taken to try to improve business, particularly for Market Hall tenants underground. It said in a statement:

“MRA is working very hard with tenants to ensure Yagan Square is a success. The area is well supported through social media and other promotional campaigns and is the epicentre and live site for Perth’s major events, including the recent Bledisloe Cup and Manchester United games.

“We continue to collaborate with tenants on a number of activation and marketing initiatives, including the upcoming school holiday program, Perth Wildcats and Perth Glory season partnerships; and Halloween.”

It said another food business – bahn mi specialist Le Vietnam – had just opened in the Market Hall food court, while another, Korean restaurant Gangnam, was due to open later this month.

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