Mirvac eyes major redevelopment after leases for flooded Toombul mall canceled, observers say

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A redevelopment of the flood-ravaged Toombul Shopping Center site will capitalize on its proximity to Brisbane’s CBD, airport and transport links, according to business and marketing leaders.

Landlord Mirvac announced yesterday that he would be ending retail leases in the North Brisbane shopping center after flooding in late February caused extensive damage.

In a statement, the developer said it had “undertaken extensive assessments to understand the full impact of the flood damage to the Toombul Mall”.

“After considering the current and potential future impacts of flooding on the site, it is impractical and undesirable to restore the center to its pre-flood damage condition,” the statement said.

Mirvac said the mall suffered extensive damage during flooding in February.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

Change inevitable, says consultant

CM Ink director Catherine Michael said the decision to close the 54-year-old center was “still pending”.

The marketing consultant said the value of the site and the age of the mall meant that Mirvac could benefit greatly from its redevelopment.

“Mirvac paid $228 million for this site in 2016, and the valuations of a lot of mall spaces and those types of sites have skyrocketed, even with COVID and people aren’t going to malls as much,” Ms. Michael.

“It’s one of those centers – it’s not a Chermside, which has car parks, has everything that opens and closes – it was easy to get in and out of, close to a train station and buses.

“It is well located and has these [transport] feeders in there.”

But retailers requiring large geographic footprints like Bunnings probably wouldn’t look at the location, Ms. Michael said.

She said these companies would have already mapped out their ideal sites.

Sign at the mall saying "Toombul currently closed".
The center was preferred by many residents over the busier Westfield Chermside.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

Ms Michael said combining retail and residential could be an option.

“They will look at what is the best use of this location for shareholders – but this community now with real estate prices, it’s not an outer suburb,” she said.

“Nundah is not that far from the city, it’s not far from the airport, there are good train and bus connections.

“They’ll be looking to do something pretty smart and offer something that [Westfield] Chermside is not.

“We have become very dependent on cars, so parking is essential.”

Brisbane North Chamber of Commerce chairman Simon Penrose said he expected a mixed-use development.

“There may still be a lot of retail, but a lot of places are residential as well,” he said.

Ample parking in a fenced mall.
Anything planned for Toombul must be able to withstand future flooding, industry watchers say.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Lucy Stone)

Companies to find new housing

Many businesses located in Toombul would have to “start all over again”, Mr Penrose said.

Although there were vacant shops in the adjacent suburbs of Nundah, Stafford and Lutwyche, he said many residents would be inconvenienced as the center of Toombul was “a hub of the region”.

“It was one of the only malls that had a lot of banks,” he said.

“A lot of [the shoppers] will go to Chermside – this was highlighted the last two weekends when it took an hour to get out of the mall.”

Some retailers had already moved to new premises after the center closed.

Toombul Barber is now in Ascot, Ed’s PCs in Taigum, Home & Her is in Nundah and Function Well Gym is operating in Newstead.

The entrance to the Toombul shopping mall.
Retailers and shoppers were appalled by Mirvac’s announcement, but experts say change was still coming.(Supplied: Toombul Mall)

The new design should be flood proof

Mr Penrose and Ms Michael also agreed that everything planned for the Toombul site should be heavily flood-proofed.

Mr Penrose said the malls in Gympie were now built high up, with the first two levels being car parks.

Ms Michael said it would make sense to use the model of old Queensland houses, which were also built high up.

“Things could go under, you could hose it down – this reversal of things that require rent, trades, customers, security, really good hygiene [and which] have to be up high in these flood zones,” she said.

“Retail provides a big part of that community – people walk around and meet for a coffee there, it’s knowing when a JP would be there, it’s the newsagent, it’s the everyday stuff which people would need regularly during their weeks.”

Across Brisbane, Bunnings Regional Operations Manager Jason Doyle confirmed that Oxley Hardware will remain closed while “opportunities for redevelopment, including flood design concepts” are explored.

But he said Bunnings would reopen its flood-hit Rocklea store by mid-June.

“For now, our Oxley team will continue to work and support their nearby stores, as they have done for the past two and a half months,” Mr Doyle said.

“We will continue to keep the local community informed as our plans to reopen the Rocklea store progress, and once we have further updates for our Oxley store.”

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