Expected sale signals next chapter for iconic Canberra markets

Published on: 07/12/2021
As buyers jostle towards the finish line in the imminent sale of Fyshwick Markets, all eyes are on what’s expected to be a record price for the retail precinct.

Agent Billy Holderhead of Burgess Rawson confirmed that the property will be sold. It is expected to fetch $60 million or more.

“There are several buyers at the top end,” Mr Holderhead said. “There’s not much between them, so this is going down to the wire.”

Last traded for $42.2 million in 2017, Canberra’s largest commercial precinct occupies prime land in the sought-after inner south. Just 5km from the CBD, the 26,582 sqm site hosts 39 locally-owned specialty stores.

“The campaign attracted 87 enquiries from right across the country,” Mr Holderhead said. “Interstate demand (for major Canberra investment properties) has never been more intense.”

Stable occupancy, strong history

The average tenancy at the markets is just under three decades, according to Burgess Rawson. Stability of occupancy points to the markets’ economic success over time.

It’s also indicative of the precinct’s strong relationship with the Canberra community, across generations.

Canberra social planner, Tania Parkes, attributes some of this success to location, saying the markets have become “more geographically central and more accessible to a broad population base as Canberra has grown”.

It’s certainly a long way from the markets’ origin in the middle of last century, when farmers, many of them Italian and Greek immigrants, would gather to sell their produce off the backs of trucks.

Formally established in 1967, with major redevelopments in 2008 and 2018, the precinct now offers comfortable under-cover shopping and spaces to socialise.

A new niche wing sells gifts and homewares alongside the markets’ eclectic food produce, catering to the city’s evolving tastes.

A hub for Canberra’s growing culinary sophistication

Ms Parkes, who moved to Canberra in 1978, said the markets’ expansion over time reflects the city’s growth.

“The variety of produce offered over time also reflects Canberra’s increasing multicultural palate and culinary sophistication,” she said.

The precinct gives Canberrans an unparalleled opportunity to shop local, a habit that gathered global momentum throughout the pandemic. Vendors source fresh produce from local farmers and artisan food producers.

Canberra’s most iconic bottle shop Plonk, located at the markets, showcases local and regional winemakers, breweries and distilleries.

It’s a city with a strong sense of local pride. The desire to safeguard local farmers, growers and producers meant locals rushed to support fresh food markets during the pandemic.

Pandemic-proof supply

Around 95% of the markets’ pandemic income came from tenants offering essential products to locals through lockdowns, according to Burgess Rawson. Shopping for essentials al fresco has made it for easier social distancing.

At a time when people’s social lives were curtailed, locals enjoyed the vibrance and ‘theatre’ of markets. With supermarket shelves stripped bare, and with social trends coaxing people into a wave of home cooking and baking, demand for fresh market fare grew.

Mr Parkes said this increasing appetite for fresh produce and home cooking is fuelled by media programming.

As viewers devour cooking shows like MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules, they’re searching for fresher, less common, organic food supplies for their home kitchens. And with Fyshwick Markets offering specialist cooking, craft and gin workshops, they’re upskilling home chefs while catering to imaginative ingredients lists.

Sustainable shopping

The markets have in recent years added sustainable features, including 500 solar panels, a 175,000L water tank, and a food wastage program that maximises transport efficiency and supports local farmers and charities.

The new owners will have decisions to make on how to develop the 1500sqm marked for expansion. Ms Parkes said she hopes to see improved weather protection and more spaces to socialise comfortably.

“We had enquiries from private families, syndicates and major [real estate investment trusts],” Mr Holderhead said. “Based on the strength of the bids we’ve shortlisted, we’re very confident we’ll be able to confirm a successful sale result in the next few days.”

For the precinct’s current owners and potential new buyers, and for the long-established vendors, the wait for news of the markets’ next chapter is almost over.

Emma Grey, Commercial News


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