Tenants sour over Highland Park plans

At least two retailers at Highland Park Shopping Centre are seeking legal advice over redevelopment plans which will likely see them surrender their leases and leave the site.

And one retailer is “a little bit sour” after investing $500,000 in his store in a major refit around Christmas 2016.

Tenants were advised in February that the shopping centre was purchased by Foodstuffs North Island which intends to “completely redevelop that part of the centre comprising the specialty retail shops”.

It intends to carry out a “comprehensive redevelopment in the short term which will, in time, lead to the development of Pak’n’Save”.

“Where premises are required to be demolished as part of the redevelopment, NTC (The National Trading Company, part of Foodstuffs NI) will comply with its obligations under the terms of each individual lease,” a February 23 letter from managing agents Colliers said.

“Once plans have been finalised, NTC intends to serve surrender notices to affected tenants in accordance with Section 12 of the relevant leases,” Colliers said.

“We will keep you informed about when this is likely to occur as NTC’s plans are finalised.”

One retailer, who asked not to be named, told the Times: “I am receiving legal advice as to my position at Highland Park.

“Along with many tenants here, we are still in the dark as to the overall plans. I feel I know about as much as the management at present.

“I have no doubt the impact on the tenants and many, many loyal customers is going to be difficult to deal with.”

Another retailer, who wished to remain anonymous, has had a business there for 10 years.

“A lot of the community don’t want it (the redevelopment). Unfortunately, no-one wants this to happen.”

He told the Times demolition is set for March 31. “Everything is so uncertain at the moment. We’ll have to relocate. Site options are very limited at the moment,” he said.

“Overall, I understand it’s all business at the end of the day. It’s our way of life here…there’s ease of access.

“The main aim is to relocate to an equally convenient site. We are trying to find a way to inform our customers.

“Admittedly, no-one is happy. We did $500,000 (of) internal work (in the store)…(we’re) a little bit sour.”

Another retailer told a meeting of the Howick Local Board last week that “the bullying has started”.

“Most of the small family businesses can’t afford to spend on big lawyers,” he said.

“So we don’t know what the plan is. We’ve only had a short 15 minute meeting with Colliers.”

He said there were no plans in place in which retailers could come back and secure space in the new complex.

“That’s quite frustrating and disgusting…what do the small family-owned businesses do?”

“We support the local area, people from Highlands Retirement Village, Pakuranga Park Village – they all come to our shopping centre for small businesses, for small services. This is what we are.

“They have all been asking us “where are you guys going? Where do we go now?”.

He said he was happy for Pak’n’Save to come in. “I am not against it. It’s good for competition but there should be some kind of support given to small businesses,” he said.

“I don’t know whether it’s local government (which should step up) but somebody needs to be asking, ‘how are we going to protect small businesses?’

“The lease that everybody has signed says that we are protected and that we should be given space to grow our business while the renovation is going on.

“There’s nothing. We have all been given a letter now that says at the end of March 2019, we all have to be out.”

He asked the local board how it could support or guide retailers.

“My lease expires in 2024. They’ve told us there will be no compensation and people have spent a few thousands of dollars on renovations,” he said.

“We have invested so much – I had to spend $25,000 on renovations such as repainting, re-carpeting the store.

It’s all down the drain now.”

Antoinette Laird of Foodstuffs NZ has reiterated that Foodstuffs North Island does not take ownership of the site until the end of June

“So we believe that we’ve been doing as much as we can to keep tenants up to speed within the realms of what we’re practicably able to do.

“It’s a very big project and we have a number of people working with us who are experts in their field, like (commercial real estate company) Colliers.”

She told the Times they would have a clearer picture of what they’re planning for the site later in June which could help address some of the uncertainty tenants and locals have expressed.

“We realise Highland Park is a hub and meeting point for many and we have absolutely no intention of eroding that – in fact, we’re setting out to give this important location an awesome makeover, in addition to creating jobs and an enhanced shopping experience,” she said.

“We have indicated that a March 1, 2019 exit date is possible with a potential building and refurbishment programme taking approximately two years from that date, however, there are many contingencies we need to take into account as we look to develop and enhance the Highland Park shopping precinct.”