Monday, 13 October 2014

1969: David Jones & Garden City, North Ryde

David Jones opens at an expanded Macquarie Centre this week. Its opening has been a long time coming, in fact about forty-five years going by this proposal to build their own shopping centre known as Garden City at Epping Road, Macquarie Park (formally part of North Ryde). This is roughly where Optus is based today within the suburb.

The proposal came up in response to Grace Bros plans to build what is now Macquarie Centre (see map below). They had difficulty seeking approval themselves, with the plans rejected by Ryde Council and they were forced to lodge their plans with the State Planning Authority.


Source: Anonymous. 1969. "18 1/2m. move to suburbs: Two stores plan for North Ryde." The Daily Telegraph, February 25, 3 & 7. 

However, the big challenge for David Jones was getting approval on what was industrial land to build their shopping complex. It had to go to the State Planning Authority for approval to seek rezoning to build the centre.

The centre was designed by Donald Crone, one of the city's leading architects who had recently designed Sydney Tower.


Source: Anonymous. 1969. "$18.6m David Jones Plan for North Ryde." The Sydney Morning Herald, February 25, 1 & 4. 

For David Jones, Garden City was going to have several advantages. Not only would have a presence on Sydney's booming north and north western suburbs, but it could also allow for its distribution centre to be placed alongside it, centralising operations. This would result in the distribution centre at Alexandria closing down.

And in those days as we might know, Department Store chains were very wise in developing the shopping centres themselves. Adding speciality stores to their shopping centres would allow for some extra income through rents on tenants. Roselands (developed by Grace Bros) was an example. This would be David Jones answer. Eighty speciality shops were planned just like Roselands. However it went a few steps further. An office tower was planned and as mentioned the distribution centre.

Garden City would have provided up to 3500 jobs.

As the year progressed, Myer Corporation were also interested in operating a store in the centre through Farmers.

In November 1969, the State Government decided only to approve the Grace Bros proposal while rejecting David Jones proposal on zoning grounds. The Macquarie Centre as the centre eventually came to be known would not open until 1981. Grace Bros won the war to establish itself at North Ryde.

Had Garden City gone ahead, the retail scene at North Ryde would be dramatically different in my view. It is so hard to predict where it could have gone but I'm thinking that David Jones' centre would have ultimately prevailed because of its location - Epping Road. It had greater exposure to traffic passing through the area and better transport links.  It would have also been the second shopping centre in Sydney to have two major department stores. Warringah Mall was the only centre to have two department stores; David Jones and Grace Bros.

Grace Bros would have eventually had a store at North Ryde as the Myer Corporation took over Grace Bros in 1983 and were rebranded as Myer in 2004.