The northwest nexus: Castle Towers

The recent addition of the Northwest (NW) Metro has democratised travel to the region. Castle Hill is one of the main beneficiaries. The eponymous Metro stop sits adjacent to Castle Towers, a large shopping centre that is the Northwest’s drawcard. I’ve been to the mall twice, both of them this past May. The first one was brief. After lunch, I left soon to travel over an hour to Macarthur Square. I was after my Tigers pair, of which only they stocked. I saw much more of the centre during my subsequent visit. Castle Towers has a wide range of shops, is well laid-out, and is an upmarket shopping destination.

Two ways

If you’re taking the train, there are two ways you could get to Castle Towers. Option A: change at Chatswood for the light rail to Castle Hill. Option B: take the Metro from nearby Epping. If you’re travelling from the city, Option A makes more sense. Our initial visit to Castle Hill was also my first commute on the light rail. The NW had been running for about a year by then. Epping marks the fourth stop from Chatswood. Cherrybrook is next, then Castle Hill. In short, the latter is the sixth stop from Chatswood. The Metro trains are driverless, with barriers along the platform to streamline the experience. My friend admitted that the concept and running of the service reminds him of its Singaporean counterpart. In particular, the seating plan and announcer bore a striking resemblance.

Food Court

Since the Castle Hill stop is underground, you’ll ascend one level, tap off, then pass through a short tunnel before getting to the mall. The station and tunnel were surprisingly windy even though there was nary a window around. Upon entering, The Reject Shop is the first store you’ll see. We bought a wall clock and some nuts on our initial visit. Aside from Reject, the ground-level food court is also near the entrance. The usual fast food is there: Oporto, McDonald’s and KFC. There is also sushi, Japanese, and Chinese outlets. Further along, there are a couple of joints. The seating area was closed during our first visit, owing to the pandemic. Apparently, this part of the centre (the entrance and food court) is new and was only opened last December. The area used to be a car park before being repurposed as part of a new development. The tunnel that connects to the station is part of this rezoning.

We found out that they had a second food court. Unlike its ground-floor cousin, this one only had two outlets open: a fish and chips shop and the venerable Indian option. Castle Towers is spread over three bright levels with generous corridors. The centre has both a Kmart and a Target. We browsed both department stores on our second trip, where I purchased a blue sweater from Kmart. Furthermore, the complex touts a Best and Less. I noticed in May that the retailer was a popular choice given the lack of sizes. I also bought this camel pant from Surf Dive n’ Ski (SDS), a steal at twenty-seven bucks. Apart from the pant, I looked at their belts, shirts, and bags.

Browsing

We checked at Just Jeans, where I tried on a couple of jumpers. One of their olive henleys was on sale, but the plain colour wasn’t very enticing. Further along from SDS, I was surprised that they had a large Uniqlo store. We had a quick browse. We passed by Lowes, where they had fleece pants for 14.95. I gave it a quick think, before we decided to look at others first. Two weeks later, while browsing in the city, Lowes had jacked up the cost to 19.95. For that price, I was able to buy two fleece pants at a discount shop in Bondi.

Gold Class

Castle Towers also has a bookstore, and houses both Myer and David Jones (DJ). During both our trips in May, Myer was temporarily closed. Shoppers likewise have the option of Coles and Aldi. Event Cinemas is on the upper level and includes Gold Class – the premium cinematic experience with reclining chairs and gourmet food delivered to your seat. I remember having an older classmate who was from the Hills district. She told her friend that she tried out the Gold Class cinema at Castle Towers, which was her first bite of the apple. The auditorium seated about thirty people. I’ve visited Gold Class in Bondi, Macquarie, and Parramatta. However, before the advent of the Metro, going to Castle Hill wasn’t practical.

Unrivalled

The scale and accessibility of Castle Towers is unrivalled in Sydney’s NW corridor. The Queensland Investment Corporation owns the complex, which opened in October of 1982. As of this month, there are 292 stores in Castle Hill, meaning there’s something for everyone.  As mentioned, the centre boasts both DJ and Myer. Moreover, it also carries three discount department stores: Kmart, Target, and Best and Less. In addition, the mall offers a multi-screen cineplex, which includes Gold Class. The current cineplex is a relative novelty, having been constructed in 2009. Coles and Aldi are also part of the story. The precinct houses pharmacies, two food courts, and a flurry of fashion destinations including Uniqlo, Cotton On, Country Road, Rodd and Gunn, and Yd. Techies can hang out at JB HiFi, Sony, Vodafone, EB Games, or Mobile Experts. There are news agents for bookworms, Shaver Shop for the vain, and the requisite bank branches.

History

As of last December, Castle Towers has a total retail space of 117,700 square metres. The complex likewise has parking for over 5,000 vehicles. Speaking of the car park, I recall my chap posting that he lost his bike. He thought that someone nicked his ride; he even alerted the authorities. Turns out the parking is massive and losing your bike is easy as. Anyhow, through almost forty years of trading, the precinct has undergone a number of expansions and redevelopments. When it opened in 1982, Kmart, Coles and the now-defunct Norman Ross were the anchor tenants. David Jones and Franklins were added in 1991.

In August of 1993, the cinema site was launched, and Target succeeded Norman Ross. September of 1999, a second cinema site was instituted, and 44 specialty stores were annexed in the new Piazza dining district. In April 2000, Target and DJ expanded with Bi-Lo and Food for Less unseating Franklins; 76 more shops were welcomed. In August of 2001, the final chapter was revealed with a two-storey Grace Bros (Myer) and 34 posh fashion retailers. January 2007 saw Dan Murphy succeed Food for Less. In June 2009, Myer appended a new lower-ground level, relaunching as a three-level store.

Onwards

Further expansion, which has since been approved, will see the centre ballooning to 150,000 square metres. This would make Castle Towers one of the largest malls in Australia. Meanwhile, both our trips to Castle Hill were during the height of the pandemic. The food court was barely operational, some outlets were closed, and shoppers were few. I doubt that this was the case even as late as summer of this year. Looking at the complex, you wouldn’t deduce that it is steeped in history. If you aren’t informed, you could be mistaken for thinking that the tunnel-shaped portal at the front has been there for years. As it turns out, it hasn’t even been there for a year. If you don’t dare, you’ll never know.

Sydney Metro Northwest
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