In the mid 1960s, The Westfield Group was looking to expand interstate into Queensland. Co-founder of Westfield, Frank Lowy sent his brother John and an engineer to the state to scout for potential sites in Brisbane. A local real estate agent, Donald Petrie, showed them the current site, located on a flood plain with a creek flowing through it in a growing area of the city. Later, the Westfield founders travelled to Brisbane to inspect the site. Realising the commercial potential of the area, the company purchased the property. To overcome the flooding issues, Westfield employed experts at a local university to develop a plan. The solution was to fill and raise one half of the site to build the centre and construct a bridge across the creek.
There were also problems finding a department store to anchor the centre and filling the specialty retail spaces at the centre. As Toombul was close to the Chermside Shopping Centre, which was anchored by a department store, other department stores were cautious about opening so close. Another problem was Westfield was an unknown developer outside of New South Wales, making it hard to attract retailers. Frank Lowy and Donald Petrie resorted to walking the streets of Brisbane's CBD to find retailers to occupy the centre. It paid off as the centre was 100% leased at opening. Due to Westfield's relationship with Coles (having built some Coles stores in Sydney), the retailer was committed from the beginning of the development to opening a store at the centre.
The centre opened as Westfield Shopping Town Toombul on Wednesday 11 October 1967. It was originally anchored by a Barry and Roberts Department store, Coles supermarket, Bayards store and 60 specialty stores. It was the first shopping centre in Brisbane built with air-conditioning (Chermside was converted in 1965) and had off-street parking for up to 1500 vehicles. One of its main features was a water fountain located in the centre of the mall.
By the early 1970s, the Bayards store had closed down leaving room for another anchor to open at the centre. Westfield had negotiated a deal with David Jones to open a store at Toombul. This was an unusual move for the retailer at the time as they had their own development and construction company and only opened suburban stores in their own 'Garden City' shopping centres. The 2 level David Jones department store opened in 1972 and was the first extension for the centre. It was also the first David Jones store to open in a Westfield owned shopping centre.
For a brief time in the 1970s, Toombul was anchored by 2 Department stores, a rarity for an Australian shopping centre at the time. Sometime in the 1970s a single screen cinema opened at the centre, the second extension to the centre. By the mid 1970s, Barry and Roberts had closed down their Toombul store, leaving David Jones as the sole department store anchor. In 1978 the discount department store chain Target had opened a store in part of the former Barry and Roberts store. A food court was also opened at this time.
A street and 2 residential blocks adjoining the centre were bought in the late 1970s and construction of the third major extension began. In 1980, the extension opened with a new mall, bus station, extension to the second level of David Jones, Best & Less and Kmart discount department store. The total number of specialty stores at the centre increased to over 140. In 1982, the Target store closed down, leaving David Jones, Kmart and Coles as the anchors. The fourth major extension opened in 1989 on the part of the site occupied by the former Barry and Roberts store. The extension added a BI-LO supermarket and new specialty stores on the lower level and an 8 screen Birch, Carroll and Coyle multiplex cinema plus a new food court and Sizzler restaurant on the upper mezzanine level. The rest of the centre was refurbished along with this extension.
The 1990s were probably Westfield Toombul's last successful decade, and by the early 1990s, it was the largest shopping centre on Brisbane's northside and the only centre on the northside with a multiplex cinema. The number of specialty stores at the centre totalled over 180. The centre held this title until 1999 when the redeveloped Westfield Chermside opened. Although the now much larger Chermside centre didn't greatly affect the retail trade of Toombul, it did affect the trade of the cinema. The more modern, larger 16 screen Birch, Carroll and Coyle multiplex with Gold Class cinemas and entertainment precinct built at Chermside drew much of its clientele from the same catchment area as the Toombul multiplex, with many preferring to go to Chermside. After the redevelopment of Chermside completed in 2000, Toombul became overlooked by Westfield, with the company preferring to focus on promoting the upgraded Chermside centre.
In 2003, the external facade was modernised, a new bus station constructed and an outdoor dining precinct was added where the former bus station was located. The famous "big T" sign, first erected on centre's opening in 1967, was dismantled. This was the last construction work done by Westfield. In July 2003, the centre was acquired by the Centro Properties Group in a stock trade deal involving Toombul and other Westfield properties in exchange for Centro's interest in the AMP Shopping Centre Trust. As a result, the centre changed its name from Westfield Toombul to Centro Toombul.
In 2005, Centro announced a 2 stage extension to the centre. The first stage added an Aldi Food Store, Fresh Life fresh food mall and additional specialty stores. The second stage of expansion (which never commenced) was to add Diner's Life food court on the ground level and convert the old cinemas into a rooftop carpark. This stage was originally intended to be complete by November 2006.
The future of the centre is uncertain, due to increased competition from rival centres at Chermside, Nundah and Brisbane Airport, as well as due to the aging superstructure of the building itself. Much of the blame for the decline, even while the surrounding area is booming, has been laid at the feet of Centro citing poor management practices.
On the 21st of August 2008, it was announced that Centro Toombul was for sale.
On the 20th Of July 2010, David Jones announced that it would terminate its lease at Centro Toombul ending the store's 35 year long relationship with the centre. The store space will be taken over by discount department store Target after David Jones closes on 29 January 2011.
In May 2011, a new small food court opened on the ground level near centre court. The new food court houses 5 outlets including a Subway.
On October 6 2011, Target opened at Toombul. The 6,574 square metre store features the full suite of Target’s new store design which includes a co-ordinated women’s fashion area with a major boulevard for accessories, a beauty shop in the middle of the store with a cosmetics bar for makeovers and a state of the art home entertainment department.
In August 2012 the 8-Screen Multiplex Cinema will reopen with new furnishings (after closing in 2007). To be operated by be Event Cinemas.
Read more about this topic: Centro Toombul
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