By PHILIP CHANDLER
Queenstown’s CBD’s becoming pockmarked with emptied-out premises, however a local commercial broker says she’d feared worse.
Two years after Covid struck, there are empty spaces in virtually every block.
One of the CBD’s biggest shops, BONZ, recently upped sticks for smaller premises nearby.
Bendon, also in The Mall, has just shut shop, while BNZ, late this month, will become the third bank to desert the CBD, following SBS and ASB — though, like ASB, it’s opening an unmanned ATM lobby, instead.
Three empty corner sites also stick out like sore thumbs.
Local Colliers broker Mary-Jo Hudson says at the start of Covid ‘‘I worried how much vacancy there would be, and I didn’t factor in the street works, which came later’’.
Considering CBD businesses relied about 75%, by her estimation, on overseas visitors, who’ve been shut out, ‘‘it was always going to have a much bigger impact on downtown than Frankton, and that’s how it’s played out’’.
She’s aware of about 14 vacancies at the moment, all but one of which she’s involved with.
‘‘Of that, there’s probably only half-a-dozen that are in the ‘golden square’, in the really hot zone, which, considering what we’ve been through, is not too bad.
‘‘And of those vacancies, we’ve got offers on half of them.
‘‘I’m dealing with inquiry all of the time, and there’s still a lot of faith in Queenstown’s CBD, medium to long term, from the brands.’’
She attributes the lower-than-expected vacancies to operators’ ‘‘resilience’’, and their partnerships with their landlords — supported, till late last year, by the government wage subsidy.
‘‘Landlords have stepped up and supported their tenants — some have needed more support than others because they are more exposed.
‘‘I think the fact they have worked together has been critical to the level of vacancy we’ve got.’’
It helps, Hudson says, that a lot of the landlords live here — ‘‘we don’t have a lot of absentee, corporate landlords’’.
For confidence in the CBD’s future, she’s buoyed by DFS Group opening its two-level T Galleria store in the redeveloped O’Connells building, late this year.
‘‘This is an absolute win for the CBD.’’
And from the hospitality side, the Upper Village complex on Brecon Street, she says, is ‘‘a wonderful facility for downtown’’.
‘‘I appreciate it’s a tough time to open, but they take the medium- to long-term view.’’