Shopping centres cool havens in the tropics | Courier Mail City Beat

December 8, 2022

SENTINEL Property Group boss Warren “The Property Whisperer” Ebert (pictured) has made a $280m bet on people preferring to go shopping in the north rather than swim with crocodiles.

Following the record-breaking purchase of Darwin’s main retail centre Casuarina Square, Ebert has now acquired the Caneland Central Shopping Centre in Mackay.

Sentinel paid $280m for Caneland Central to the Lendlease-managed Australian Prime Property Fund (APPF) Retail just over eight months since settling on Casuarina Square with GPT Group for $218m, in the syndicator’s biggest deal since it was established in 2010.

While the retail sector took a hammering during the Covid-19 pandemic, Ebert says regional shopping centres particularly in the tropical north remain community focal points.

“I used to travel a lot through Asia and I’d think why are they always in these shopping centres,” he says.

“Then you start doing your due diligence in Northern Australia, when it’s 36 degrees and 90 per cent humidity, I can tell you, you don’t go swimming because you’ve got the crocodiles and the sharks, and it is just too hot, so people go into the shopping centres.”

In 2022, Brisbane-based Sentinel has spent more than $800m on new assets, while staff numbers have soared to more than 100 to accommodate the growth. With 65,964sq m of gross floor area and 202 tenants, Caneland Central is the largest shopping centre in the region, servicing a catchment of more than 175,000 people.

Anchor tenants include Big W, Coles, Target and Woolworths, while it is the only retail centre with a Myer within 320km.

“Caneland Central is the first property to be owned by the Sentinel Caneland Mackay Investment Trust and it is the premier shopping and lifestyle destination in the Mackay region,” Ebert tells City Beat. “Like Casuarina Square, Caneland Central completely dominates its market. Every man, woman and child in Mackay comes to Caneland four times a month.

“You could never duplicate this centre and you also cannot find another 14ha site like this in the city, let alone even close to the city.” Caneland Central first opened in 1979.

Glen Norris | Courier Mail City Beat

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