The fast-growing rural village of Murrumbateman is about to become a country town, complete with a pedestrian-friendly retail heart.
Sydney-based developer Hewlett Property Group, which has commercial centres in Canberra and elsewhere in regional NSW, is building Fairley Square, a town centre of four buildings with eight separate small and medium tenancies.
The development has planning approval and work on the buildings and generous car parking is due to be completed between March and June, 2020.
The group’s long-term outlook for Fairley Square is as the main meeting place for people in Murrumbateman, once known for its strong, diverse agriculture but now an economic hub for the broader Yass Valley local government area.
Murrumbateman’s local government region is the third fastest growing area in regional NSW, and its 2019 population of 17,451 residents will soar to 27,315 by 2036. Over this period the Murrumbateman district alone will grow by 56 per cent.
Many Canberra people are driving that growth, combining an idyllic rural lifestyle in Murrumbateman with work opportunities in the nearby national capital.
The Fairley residential subdivision, a YWCA-operated 115-place childcare centre, medical centre, the new Abode Hotel and many other retail businesses are creating vibrancy in Murrumbateman. A primary school will open in the near future, thanks to a spirited community campaign.
Laing and Simmons sales and leasing executive Chris Antos says that because of the growth in residential developments, demand is strong for retail services.
Fairley Square’s four stylish buildings have opportunities for foundation tenants. Spaces available would suit a cafe, florist, gym, newsagent, real estate agent, liquor store, food and beverage outlet, restaurant, delicatessen, business professional offices, bakery, butcher, and a hair and beauty salon.
Mr Antos says the new shops will bring critical mass for existing businesses. “People staying at the new Abode Hotel will be able to walk to Fairley Square and enjoy a nice meal, or do a bit of shopping,” he says.
“The architectural design will hopefully stand the test of time. It is not something that will date quickly, it complements the surrounding area, using a lot of natural elements in materials to be used, so it will fit the Murrumbateman landscape for a long time to come,” Mr Antos says.
Already a national gym operator is in negotiations for one of Fairley Square’s anchor tenant positions, and a national food brand is in talks for another key position.
Murrumbateman is a popular tourist destination thanks to its reputation as the capital of Canberra and Yass’s wine region, with thousands attending the annual Australian Cool Climate Wine Show. About 20 wineries are within a short drive.
As well, several foodie festivals, the spring arts event ‘Sculpture in the Paddock’, regular farmers markets selling local produce and the famous field days regularly bring large crowds of visitors.
Mr Antos says people who have been trading successfully at the markets and field days may be ready to make the next move and open retail shops in Fairley Square. “We would love to get the locals on board, in addition to adding other significant services that are lacking in the area. They obviously have the local support,” he says.
While Murrumbateman already has some great shops there already, there is no retail activity around them. “They are relying on being a destination, whereas Fairley Square will be a centre that attracts everyone regardless,” Mr Antos says. “They will have that walk-by traffic, as well as customers seeking them out online and driving to their shops.’’
Award-winning firm Oztal Architects has designed Fairley Square to encourage interaction and pedestrian traffic. Highly visible from the Barton Highway, a major access route carrying 10,000 vehicles every day, Fairley Square will have 58 car spaces and bicycle racks.
Each tenancy will offer a light-filled shopping area, tailored to an individual tenant’s needs. Impressive design features will include shop-front awnings, interactive landscape features and outdoor seating for restaurants.
“This will be the focal point of Murrumbateman for years to come so we want the final build to attract quality tenants, we want something that will benefit the wider population,” Mr Antos says.