Retail space has been tight in Wellington for quite some time, especially along the Golden Mile. That's led to some retailers worrying about being "forced out of the CBD" by high rents, and while some are certainly having to move away from Lambton Quay and Willis St, that's not entirely a bad thing. Rather than retailers being shoved out to the suburbs, it seems that the formerly grey side streets and adjacent thoroughfares are starting to fill in and liven up. Wellington's always had the reputation for being "one street deep", but that's becoming less and less true.
Perhaps one culprit for the lack of retail space has been that, while demand has been increasing, a few big developments have taken some tenancies off the market during construction. At the other end of town, The Wellington has done that for a while, but life is gradually starting to trickle back into upper Cuba St. The Chews Lane project, while it promises a whole new retail street, has taken a big chunk of Willis St out of action for what seems like years. Now, with the release of Retail Stage Three, we can get a first look at the sort of shops that will open here.
There's not much really exciting here: Farrys and Area 51 are relocating from elsewhere in town, and I'm perhaps betraying my ignorance and/or snobbery now, but does Staxs really count as a "high-quality fashion store"? I'm not really familiar with Identity and Vincent, so perhaps they'll be more interesting.
It's the food and beverage outlets, which apart from the unnamed "Gastro Bar" have yet to be confirmed, which will make or break the Lane itself as a public space. It certainly sounds like they're aiming for a wide range, from takeaways and coffee to brunch and wine. Together with some improvements to Victoria St (including what sounds like an improved intersection), these eight tenancies could make Chews Lane a good connector from the Golden Mile to the Library and waterfront, as well as a destination in its own right, when they open up next year. But will they make up for the loss of the Malthouse balcony?