Harbour Town to become District Docklands as battling retail area finds new face

Retailers will be hoping a name change and an influx of new tenants, including an international fast-fashion giant, will help reverse the fortunes of Harbour Town Melbourne shopping centre at the Docklands.

Harbour Town’s owners, AsheMorgan, have announced the precinct will soon be known as District Docklands, and Swedish giant H&M had signed on as the anchor tenant.

The area is undergoing a $150-million redevelopment to revitalise the centre, which has struggled to draw crowds especially at nights and on weekends.

Other retailers set to join the revamped District Docklands include New Zealand brand Canterbury, Japanese-Chinese variety store Miniso, plus Cotton On and General Pants Co.

To address Harbour Town’s battle to trade well in the cooler, wetter months, the owners have installed all-weather roofing, as well as bolstered the greenery and landscaping elements.

Harbour Town Melbourne’s marketing director, Kelly Jensen, said: “This is definitely the Docklands transformation Melburnians have been waiting for.”

“We’re not going to see all the changes overnight. This is the first step … We’re acknowledging the perceptions about the area and take the comments seriously.

“The arrival of the entertainment precinct next year we will really see that nighttime activity ramp up.”

The entertainment precinct will include an eight-screen Hoyts cinema, a new leisure concept by Funlab, which runs Strike Bowling and Holey Moley mini-golf, and new dining outlets.

But Harbour Town, and the Docklands more broadly, has struggled to attract visitors outside of business hours.

About 25,000 mostly professional workers have moved into the precinct since 2011 but it has not translated into retail success.

Analysis by Fairfax Media published in May found there were 51 fewer stores trading at Harbour Town than five years ago.

Visitors to Harbour Town have complained about a lack of amenity, including public transport connections to the CBD.

Ms Jensen said: “People don’t understand how well connected the centre is to the CBD. We are part of the free tram zone – that’s a focus for us.”She said about 125,000 cars pass by the centre each day.

Originally published on theage.com.au by Melissa Singer.

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