Chatswood, NSW: Welcome to the (urban) Jungle

The north shore suburb of Chatswood, New South Wales, represents a major mercantile and residential area. To show just how major the district is, the suburb has three shopping centres. Ponder that for a moment: three malls while others nearby have none. The trio of centres include Westfield Chatswood, the Mandarin Centre, and Chatswood Chase. Furthermore, Chatswood station is a transit hub for both buses and the light rail service. Just outside the terminal, there is a Woolworths Metro store. There are likewise two Hoyts cinemas: one in Westfield and another at Chatswood Mandarin. For good measure, there are three branches of the same pharmacy chain. Restaurants and small retailers line the streets. My friend once told me that the area has become ‘too urban’ for his liking.

Westfield

Years and years ago, I recall the station being upgraded. We came here often. The Westfield wasn’t very developed yet. The mall was smaller and reminded me of the Burwood iteration. While the latter retained its stature, its Chatswood cousin underwent a few major revamps and makeovers. I remember watching Spiderwick Chronicles a lifetime ago at the Hoyts here. I also used to frequent the massive Borders spot before they evaporated. In addition, a family friend lives in this posh area. We sighted her a few times. During our early trips, Target, Coles, Myer, and Food for Less were the anchors. I don’t remember much of the latter; which Aldi has since taken over.

Westfield Chatswood is situated along Chatswood Mall, the pedestrian mall that links the transport interchange to the shopping precinct. Chatswood Mall itself runs along Victoria Avenue, the main thoroughfare. In this regard, the Westfield there bears a resemblance to its Hornsby cousin. The walkaway became pedestrian-only in 1989. Regardless, I recall buying a thin striped henley from Myer during their midseason sale. That item is still serviceable. I also picked up a plain grey Jag hoodie another time, also from Myer. My most recent purchases from the latter’s Chatswood store were a multipack sock and a rugby sweater. They likewise sport a JustJeans, where, some years back, I got a good pair of chinos on the cheap. The Spanish fashion giant Zara entered the scene in 2014.

Facelift

In 2015, the Westfield had a $110 million facelift. The gross floor area was raised from 77,000 square metres to 80,000 square metres. H & M opened shop in the area that Toys R’ Us vacated. This comprised the third H & M store in Sydney. A Uniqlo store was also added. With Topshop also arriving, the centre housed the four global fast fashion retailers at one point, until Topshop departed. Forty new stores came in as part of this redevelopment. Furthermore, the erstwhile two-level entrance fronting Victoria Avenue was repurposed into a five-storey mall. This included the aforementioned Topshop and Topman which has since closed. After this refurbishment, I purchased a limestone-coloured down jacket from Kathmandu. This was good timing as I used the jacket during our skiing adventure.

A Hawker Lane dining precinct was also instituted. However, the old food court shrunk to a few outlets. I recall having many meals in their old food court, which had a Macca’s, KFC, Subway, a sushi place, Asian cuisine, Pizza Hut, Boost – to name a few. Now, the KFC and Pizza Hut are all that’s left. The Maccas has since teleported near the station while Asian gastronomy can now be located in Hawker Lane. This reminds me a bit of their Bondi version. In both instances, the food court had to be diminished to make way for H & M. In the latter’s case, H & M replaced the entire second food court.

Chatswood Chase

One would be mistaken for thinking that the suburb revolves around Westfield, as is often the case. Indeed, Westfield was not the first major mall to spring up in Chatswood; that title goes to Chatswood Chase. The latter was born in 1983, three years prior to Westfield. Prior to the centre materialising, the local council developed the ‘Chatswood Plan’ which would highlight the suburb as the centre for infrastructure and advance the council’s retail focus. The council aimed that the town axis would remain as the heart of regional retail. David Jones (DJ) and Grace Bros. initially pitched to establish a shopping centre. However, cat fights between the two saw Grace Bros. drop out of contention and David Jones flying solo.

Pre-development began in 1981 prior to Grace Bros.’ final challenge. The centre came to fruition after fourteen months. Upon opening in ’84, the mall had a Coles, Kmart, DJ, and the only Myer in the state at the time, before this converted to a Grace Bros. This ensured that Chatswood was the only suburb in NSW at the time to have two Grace Bros. When the latter said sayonara, specialty shops and the food court took up the void. In 2003, the mall was bought by Centro. A considerable makeover took place in 2007, with an additional 10,300 square metres of retail space. The revamp includes relocating Coles, undergoing a large-scale extension to lower ground retail, a new food court, additional parking, and an entrance upgrade. Work was completed in 2010 and included a name change. After this facelift, I bought a mud-coloured leather wallet from Rodd and Gunn. I liked the big coins compartment and that I got it at half-price. We also bought a bag from Esprit, before they closed down. The centre has 63,619 square metres of floor space.

The third centre

The third and final major mall in Chatswood is Mandarin Centre. The food court is the mall’s main drawcard. There are a lot of options from various Asian cuisines. There is even a Korean smorgasbord. In general, the prices are lower than Hawker Lane. Given the flurry of options, there is more variety. The mall also has a number of variety stores. Downstairs, there is an Asian grocery. There used to be a Trade Secret on level one, which T.K. Maxx has since replaced. I was able to grab a blue baseball cap from them. I’ve never tried their cinema, but for some this may be their main allure.

I understand my friend when he says that the area is too urbanised and has such a city vibe. Buildings, shops, apartments, and concrete dominate, much like Bondi Junction. The elevation of the railway into a transit hub clinches this argument. More journeys mean more people. The trio of malls make the suburb unique. There are only a handful of areas that are lucky to have two major centres. Make no mistake though: there are enough stores in Chatswood. There are tea shops, ice cream parlours, private health offices, banks, fast fashion, department stores, sporting stores, food courts, electronics stands, and shoe stores. The various retailers cater for different budgets. However, while Chatswood is a shopper’s haven, nature lovers may be disappointed. 

Victoria Avenue
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