Urban Farm Creates Much-Needed Retail ‘Customer Experience’

Frasers Property Australia have teamed up with the “poster boy for zero-waste living”, Joost Bakker, to build the world’s most sustainable shopping centre – equipped with a 2000sq m rooftop urban farm.

As bricks and mortar retail struggles against the spectre of online shopping, retailers will need to adapt to constantly-evolving consumer needs to stay relevant.

And Frasers is doing just, announcing plans to regenerate the Burwood Brickworks in Melbourne’s east into a shopping mall that focuses on customer experience rather than the simple “need to shop”.

Frasers development manager Jack Davis says that creating a new level of experience will be crucial in addressing the needs and desires of customers.

“The real commodity becomes the visceral experience when a shopper walks through the front door, because the better that feeling is, the more often people will seek it out,” Davis said.

Related reading: Building an Edible Future: Joost Bakker

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To achieve this, Frasers are using “The Living Building Challenge” in order to create the world's most sustainable shopping centre.

The Living Future Institute created the challenge, which is described as the “world’s most rigorous performance standard for buildings” – only 15 buildings internationally have achieved full certification and Burwood Brickworks aims to be the first retail development to do so.

The LBC requires that projects must deliver 20 per cent of site area as urban agriculture.

Related reading: Frasers Acquires Infill Land Site for Masterplan

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Davis reached out to Bakker in early 2016 because of his reputation as a global pioneer when it comes to combining zero waste with organic food growing.

“After a glass of unpasteurised milk and a home-grown vegetable soup to workshop ideas at his amazing house in Monbulk, I was sold.

“Joost, who has worked as a creative consultant on the project, has brought an incredible wealth of knowledge and experience through his own personal ventures and brings a creative yet remarkably simplistic response to the challenges of the accreditation we are chasing.”

While the design encompasses a strong sustainability focus Davis says the biophilic nature of the design – which aims to connect people to the environment – also has its financial benefits for retailers.

“In a shopping centre, we believe this helps de-stress and leads to shopping at a slower pace. For our retailers, this translates to an increase in dwell time and resultant spend.”

Related reading: Frasers Buys Land in Braeside to Develop Industrial Estate

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The Urban Developer spoke with a very excited Bakker, who, after more than 15 years of “talking ideas” with developers is eager to see the project come to life.

“Developers are brilliant at ‘talking’ about ideas like this (trust me I’ve spoken to many!) and rarely does an idea get executed. It’s so frustrating and a massive time waster!” Bakker said.

Despite his frustration, Bakker sees Frasers stepping up to the challenge as a monumental move towards re-thinking how shopping centres “behave” and operate.

He identifies one of the biggest problems we face as a society is the lack of nutrition in food which the Burwood Brickworks project stands to address.

“Today our food no longer nourishes us and it’s simply because we have exhausted our soils or another way to think about it is that we’ve mined the world’s top soils.

“We have been able to hide this because of the invention of synthetic fertiliser. This has given us higher yields in terms of kilos but at a massive compromise in nutrition.

“I believe the only solution to this problem is to reintegrate the ‘waste’ we generate and use it to grow food.

“I also think the most efficient and economical way to do this is to do it where we generate the waste and that’s where we live.” Bakker said.

Related reading: Frasers Property Achieves Carbon Neutral Status

Frasers acquired the Burwood East site in 2014 and the shopping centre will form part of a much larger mixed-use development – which will include residential buildings – on the 20.5 hectare former Burwood Brickworks site in Melbourne’s east.

Frasers are currently running an expressions of interest campaign to secure a tenant that will be responsible for delivering the design, construction and operation of the urban farm.

The EOI period ends 28 March 2018 with construction expected to commence mid-year.

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Article originally posted at: https://theurbandeveloper.com/articles/urban-farm-creates-much-needed-retail-customer-experience-