Consider the oasis: Macquarie Centre

I went to the north shore to visit my dentist. He is Pinoy and he did a thorough job. While waiting for the fluoride to blend in, we took the bus to Macquarie Centre (MC). I’ve visited this mall a few times, although my last trip was in 2018. I watched Avengers with my friend in gold class. I also recall picking up this subtle black vest at Jeanswest. In recent years, the centre has become more accessible. While the old Macquarie train station has been around for a while, 2018 saw it being converted to a metro stop. Services are now more frequent. The complex is a short walk from the station, while most bus services stop in the mall’s façade. MC has nine anchor tenants, including Big W, Woolworths, Coles, Event Cinemas, Myer, David Jones, and Target. By the way, a book from a late literary mastermind inspired the title of this post.

the centre’s main entrance

Holding court

The story of MC could be traced all the way back to 1968, when Grace Bros (now Myer) purchased sixteen acres of land in North Ryde with the intent of building a twelve-million-dollar shopping complex. Arch-nemesis David Jones (DJ) countered with a proposal of building their own mall in Macquarie Park. DJ launched an ambitious bid, with eighty specialty retailers, an office tower, and a relocated distribution centre. To one-up their enemies, Grace Bros purchased further land. That same year, the state government approved Grace Bros while rejecting DJ’s offer for zoning reasons.  

Delays seemed to be the recurring theme. While Grace Bros barely opened an outlet in the seventies, the Macquarie store would be their master stroke. Work commenced on March of 1979. This coincided with AMP Capital agreeing to be the major shareholder, providing the lion’s share of the eighty-million-dollar edifice. The construction period saw numerous face-offs with the Industrial Commission over worker wages. This led to a downturn in manpower, further impacting the centre’s completion. The structure was originally set to be unveiled in Easter of 1981, but this was postponed until September. Finally, the late state Premier Neville Wran opened the centre on the seventeenth of November 1981.

The tenants

At its big reveal, the centre had ‘an Olympic sized ice rink’. The latter is the home ground of some Sydney ice hockey teams and could be utilised for other skating activities. The rink has seating for up to 2000 humans. Speaking of ice skating, I recall eating with my friend at the food court. He lived close by. We saw this elderly man treading gingerly on his skates, accompanied by his grandson. The old man fell on his bum. We had to stifle our chuckles. No seniors were harmed in the making of this vignette.

Among their major tenants were Grace Bros (since renamed Myer), Woolworths, Target, and Big W. The complex also included 130 other stores. MC became the third ‘incline mall’ in Sydney, after Burwood and Hurstville. One of the centre’s unique features is this spiral staircase in the middle that weaved all over the sundial water fountain. Discount supermarket Franklins joined the club in 1992 and was there until 2012. Likewise, Greater Union entered the dragon in September 1994, offering eight screens for Oscar nuts. I recall browsing in Borders many years past. As usual, they had a massive space. I came to know that this was their second store in Australia. Nowadays, there are sixteen cinemas in the edifice.

The recap

We had lunch at this Korean place. We ordered rice dishes: bibimbap and sizzling steak. Tummies replenished, we passed by the food court. One store was already discounting his takeaway. Further along, I realised that Jay-Jays has replaced Jeanswest. The Jag store where I bought my blue zip jacket is long gone. Ditto Gap, which was closing down when we visited on Boxing Day, 2017. We entered Myer but gathered that their promotion wasn’t up to par. Had we gone in the day before, they had forty percent off for some brands. After browsing for a little while, I headed to H&M. I concurred that they were like Myer and it was the off-season. I looked at the sale rack at General Pants; same old. This seemed to be the trend. Linen shirts at Industrie were ON SALE…for sixty bucks.

A whole new wing

We decided to give DJ a try. The store is fairly recent, part of the complex’s $440 million expansion in 2014. At the time, this was the first new DJ store in many years. A whole new wing was added, including Uniqlo, Zara, Coles, ALDI, and Sydney’s first H&M. Luckily, I noticed this check green shirt from a Country Road concession. The label said it was ‘100% organic linen’. While the price tag listed it as $39.95, the original cost was $129. They only had extra small and extra-large on the rack. I tried on the former and it was a good fit. I decided to buy it. After this, we went to Cotton On. I noted this olive hoodie which was half price. I tried the medium and it looked good, so I made the purchase. We also did a cameo at Shaver Shop. We dropped by Country Road, but they no longer had the linen shirt. We then browsed at Strandbags, where my companion liked this brown wallet. It was leather with a partial-weave design and was at a good price. After some consideration, they told me that they have too many wallets in their collection.  

Groceries and supper

We bought some bread at Baker’s Delight, before doing the weekly grocery run. After this, we had our supper at Hungry Jack’s. We then took the bus going home. Big W was the biggest store that we overlooked, although there were others. With the building’s annex, MC now holds the distinction of being Sydney’s largest suburban shopping mall. The complex totals 134,900 square meters or 1,452,052 square feet. To put it in perspective, Castle Hill is already a big structure at 117,700 square metres yet not as epic as MC. Westfield Bondi has 331 stores, but the latter offers 350. Having been established in 1981, the centre is even older than Westfield Eastgardens (1987). However, the complex has moved with the times and as detailed, has been democratised through recent transport developments. At the moment, Kmart is the only major player missing in the mall’s store directory.

How the centre stacks up

MC appears like a mirage. One could say that it’s a little out of the way, being a fair distance from the city proper. Aside from the hulking edifice, the area offers little entertainment options. North Ryde is more of a tech area, with offices of national companies including Cochlear. The suburb is also home to multi-nationals like Microsoft, Oracle, and Hewlett-Packard. There is mostly a lone reason to troop to the locale, and Macquarie is one massive motive. In this sense, the structure is closer to Castle Hill, Macarthur Square, and Rouse Hill. In all these examples, the mall is the axis, the main tourist attraction. While the station is not as proximate as Castle Hill’s, it is still a bit more accessible than Warringah Mall. All in all, it was nice to revisit the complex after a while. We weren’t able to see all the best offerings but guess what. At over three hundred stores, you will be hard-pressed to run the gamut.

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2 Responses to Consider the oasis: Macquarie Centre

  1. Humans of Eastwood says:

    Hi there – is that a photo of old Franklins at Macquarie Centre? Is it ok if we repost that on our facebook page? Thanks

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