by Tara Miko
THE $550 million Grand Central redevelopment has targeted a trade area that stretches more than 350km from Toowoomba, and the economic benefits to smaller retailers are beginning to show.
Research completed by the Queensland Investment Corporation, the developers behind Grand Central, showed almost $1billion left the Toowoomba and wider Darling Downs region due to lack of retail supply and offerings.
QIC investment general manager Scott Douglas, speaking at the Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise CBD update enterprise evening, said the long-term view of the project was to retain that expenditure in the local market.
"The investment rationale for the project was largely centred around the high level of escaped expenditure that the local Toowoomba market had for the local retail services," he said.
"The current retail trade area has a spend of about $4.16b and despite Grand Central being the dominant retail centre in that trade area, it only has a market share of about 7%.
"That was reflective of the fact there was a huge loss of retail spend out of this market.
"Our initial studies suggested there is just under $1 billion - $886m each year - which is leaving this area.
"One of the objectives of the redevelopment was to retain that expenditure in the local market."
The food precinct at the corner of Margaret and Victoria St has delivered a small boost to other inner-city cafes and restaurants, with some reporting an increase of more than 4% since Grand Central's re-opening on March 29.
The next stage will include an open park space and extensions to the existing dining precinct.
Mr Douglas said the centre's rebuild was technically difficult, requiring liaison between various local and state government bodies and included the closure of Victoria St.
QIC entered into a land swap agreement with the Toowoomba Regional Council, and the existing Ergon substation was relocated.
Flood mitigation was also critical at the site due to the West Creek floodway system.