Queen Street’s Crowning Jewel

For decades, Brisbane city’s Queen Street Mall was structured around an internalised retail offering. With shops enveloped within multi-storey shopping centres and arcades, customers required an acute local’s knowledge to hunt out key retail destinations. Before the times of e-commerce and social e-shopping, this mode of hide-and-seek shopping was the norm. But as bricks and mortar retail has come under increasing pressure to step up and stimulate customers, old-hat retail models like Queen Street Mall’s have become an outright roadblock to doing good business.

Property fund management group, ISPT, has been instrumental in turning the retail offering along this central CBD strip ‘inside out’. With a cluster of assets along the mall, including Wintergarden, Hilton Hotel, The Regent and 155 Queen Street, ISPT has seen many of the commercial properties developed and the condition of the mall re-shaped to create a retail environment that allows brands to compete with the encroaching force of e-commerce. It also offers customers an attractive retail proposition that’s ‘there to be seen’ and experienced.

ISPT’s most recent acquisition of 170 Queen Street (previously known as Broadway on the Mall) represents the jewel in the crown of their unfolding CBD retail strategy. The site’s corner location provided ISPT with a prime opportunity to create a clearer unimpeded frontage and, in doing so, attract the kind of international flagships that would continue to raise the bar on Brisbane’s retail scene.

When it came to developing the site, ISPT general manager Development Service Chris McCluskey says it was quite a confined development environment. “In the case of Broadway you have a relatively challenging construction access from [the adjacent] Adelaide Street… and we were influenced by site specific challenges.”

Rather than start from scratch, ISPT opted to work with the site’s existing structure, teaming up with John Wardle Architects and NDY to deliver on the design and 4 Star Green Star – Retail Design v1 Certified Rating, respectively.

“The intrinsic structure had large spatial volumes, and considerable slab-to-slab heights in excess of 4.5 metres – very suitable for flagship objectives,” says McCluskey.

However, achieving a 4 Star Green Star retail design rating, which represents best practice in environmentally sustainable design, would require some clever design and structural manoeuvres. Flagships stores tend to have demanding energy needs, as McCluskey points out.

“There’s the open facades, and heating and cooling of spaces right where the public access points are. Not to mention large screen televisions and audio visual requirements from open to close.”

With long-time partners NDY, ISPT set about creating an environment that, through its development, construction and final form, would offset the running costs. And all this achieved within the existing retail space.

As project director, NDY director Andrew Gentner oversaw the design of all building and environmentally sustainable design services, as well as fire engineering and acoustic services.

To begin with, the site “was stripped back to its basic structure. The only service that was kept was the substation which stayed in the same location,” he says.

Rather than consume and discard, Gentner and team worked with the architect and builder to reuse the site’s original structure. In fact, more than 80 per cent of the existing structure was kept for re-use, and the existing Adelaide Street heritage façade refurbished rather than built from new. In doing this, “we were able to maintain most of the existing slab and structure system”, notes Gentner.

Indoor environment quality was addressed early on with LED lighting intelligently controlled through a building management system. Carbon dioxide control, meanwhile, senses the occupancy of the space in order to reduce outside air rates during low occupancy.

Water-efficient fixtures were also metered throughout the fitout. An early consideration was the use of high efficiency air-cooled chillers to reduce water consumption. The added advantages of this included eliminating the risk of legionella and reducing green house gas emissions by 20 per cent.

Thanks to the site’s central location, public transport points were easy to maximise and proved a quick win on the rating card. Taking it one step further, cyclist facilities were added to accommodate 10 per cent of the building’s staff across retail and commercial tenancies.

At time of rating, 170 Queen Street achieved its 4 Star Retail Centre V1 rating on round one submission, achieving the maximum number of possible points. Reusing the majority of the existing building structure, as well as creating additional lettable area by infilling the original voids, was integral to achieving maximum points for building re-use. It also increased the site’s net lettable area – an added bonus.

Having worked with NDY on many of its Queen Street mall developments, McCluskey is quick to highlight the point of difference for this particular project: “The stand out for me is that we provided high quality base building services that have achieved the core star rating.

“In an age of scarce resources, it is inherently sustainable to repurpose structure [and] this project proves that, even with tight timing and cost parameters, you can achieve high quality sustainable outcomes. It’s the whole notion of repurposing what [could have been seen as] a redundant building.

“It’s the most desirable expression of sustainability that an investor can produce.”

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