Westfield Parramatta, September 2017. Image: Anna Namuren, Parramatta Heritage Centre

The Westfield retail centre was launched in Parramatta in 1975 [1] in the same year that consumers were introduced to Bankcard, Australia’s first credit card. [2]

Westfield Shoppingtown Parramatta, as it was then known, was the largest shopping centre in Australia for many years. [3]

Westfield Parramatta currently occupies five levels of retail stores, spanning five blocks which are bordered by Church, Argyle, Marsden and Campbell Streets.

The global company started as a retailing partnership in 1956, between John Saunders and Frank Lowry, who arrived in Australia in their twenties. [4] After opening the first Westfield in Blacktown in July 1959, the partners were soon influenced by the concept of the ‘one-stop-shopping’ model of retailing from the United States, which came to characterise future Westfield developments. [5]

Westfield development awning, Sydney c. 1960s. Image: Westfield History

Planning for the Parramatta retail complex commenced in 1971, with the aim of incorporating the existing Grace Bros store which had been established on the corner of Church Street and Argyle Street since 1933. [6]

In May 1974 development was approved by Parramatta City Council, with further consent for an expanded retail floor area and a tavern. [7] In the same year, the redeveloped Grace Bros included a food hall and supermarket, with specialty butcher’s shop, delicatessen, bakery and take-away food. There was a hardware and ‘handyman’ section on the ground floor. Over 2000 cars per day could be accommodated in the multi-level carpark. [8]

 

Westfield Shoppingtown advertising banner, c. 1980s. Image: Parramatta Heritage Centre, ACC/002/077/002

The completed Westfield shopping centre opened in September 1975 and did not undergo any major alterations until 1986 when approval was granted to expand to over 300 specialty shops and a four-theatre cinema complex. [9]

In 1989 a proposal to build an underground pedestrian underpass to link the shopping centre with the railway station precinct to ease the passage of commuters to the stores was submitted and subsequently approved. [10]

Westfield Parramatta expanded its retail footprint further in 1992, to encompass properties on the north side of Aird Street between O’Connell and Marsden Streets, and the eastern half of the block bounded by Aird, Marsden, Campbell and O’Connell Streets. This included redevelopment of part of the original Westfield Shoppingtown on the corner of Argyle and Marsden Streets, and the northern side of Campbell Street. [11]

The excavation area measured 3,240 square metres out of a total of more than 17,500 square metres, and was one of the largest archaeological excavation sites in Parramatta. The site revealed the foundations of buildings on what would have been the fringes of Parramatta town in the 19th century. [12]

Plan of a two-roomed cottage built prior to 1823 on Allotment 16, Aird Street. Image: Edward Higginbotham & Associates Pty Ltd

In 1996 the David Jones department store relocated to Westfield Parramatta from its former site on Church Street beside Parramatta River, [13] joining Grace Bros, which became known as ‘Myer’, in the expanded centre.

Westfield was a major sponsor of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games [14] and in the same year Westfield Parramatta celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a visit by fashion models Jerry Hall and Claudia Schiffer. [15]

The decade which followed was characterised by the construction of a skybridge across Church Street linking the cinemas with the shopping centre [16] and the introduction of a site-wide Smoke-free zone which included shops and the carpark. [17]

In recent years, the Westfield Corporation adopted strategies in line with technological and social changes, which have seen traditional retail stores compete to remain operational with the consumer shift to online shopping. In 2016 Westfield Labs was established in San Francisco to help prototype innovative, new ways to engage shoppers globally online. [18]

On December 12, 2017, the Westfield Corporation was sold to the European company Unibail-Rodamco for $32 billion. The Lowy family retained a small stake in Scentre Group, a separate company, which operates the Westfield shopping centres in Australia and New Zealand. [50]

Westfield timeline

Early 1800s: In Parramatta many retailers sell a great variety of goods. [19]
1850-1910: The specialisation of shops grows, characterised by the opening of Pye’s Pharmacy in 1850 by Whitaker; the rise of the department store as a way of retailing, including Erby’s Wycombe House Emporium and Murray Bros, both in Church Street. During the latter part of the 19th century Parramatta was also a holiday destination for Sydney dwellers, the beginnings of shopping as a recreational activity. [20]
1933: Opening of Grace Bros department store on the corner of Church Street and Argyle Street, Parramatta. [21] This was the first of the Grace Bros stores constructed outside the Sydney CBD. The store was strategically located close to the railway station, bus terminus and the established shopping strip along Church Street. The company also foresaw the growth and prosperity of the western suburbs of Sydney which would take place over the next few decades.
Early 1950s: Partnership formed between John Saunders and Frank Lowy known as Westfield Investments Pty Ltd. [22]
1955: New Grace Bros store constructed on the same site in Parramatta. [23]
1959: First shopping centre built by Westfield opened in Blacktown in July 1959. [24]
1960: Westfield Development Corporation formed and listed on the Australian Stock Exchange in September 1960: Saunders and Lowy also inspected the ‘one-stop-shopping’ model of centres in the United States on which to base future Westfield developments. The company was destined to become a major Australian success story with worldwide representation. [25]
1961: Hornsby Westfield completed on the corner of Edgeworth David Avenue and the Pacific Highway. [26] The retail sector in Parramatta was expanding with further growth along Church Street including the construction of the David Jones store which opened adjacent to the Lennox Bridge in 1962.
1962: A further seven centres constructed in the Sydney suburbs including Blacktown, Baulkham Hills, Eastwood, De Why, Yagoona, Maroubra and Caringbah. [27]
1966: Burwood Westfield opened, the centre was praised as the most beautiful indoor shopping centre in the world. It was the first to be branded with the Westfield logo. [28]
1967: Westfield company expanded interstate with the construction of the Toombul store in Queensland. [29]
1971: Planning also commenced on the Parramatta development which would incorporate the existing Grace Bros store on the corner of Church Street and Argyle Street. The name of the company changed to Westfield Limited. [30]
1973: Development approved by Parramatta City Council with a further consent for additional retail floor area and a tavern in May 1974. [31]
1974: Opening of new Grace Bros store marked the first stage of the large Westfield Shoppingtown development on the site. The new Grace Bros included a foodhall and supermarket with specialty butcher’s shop, delicatessen, bakery and take away food. There was a hardware and ‘handyman’ section on the ground floor and over 2000 cars per day could be accommodated in the multi-level carpark. [32]
1975: The completed Westfield development opened in September and remained without major alteration until 1986. [33]
1975: The opening of the new complex also saw the introduction of the credit card known as ‘Bankcard’. The advertisement for Waltons stated that ‘your bankcard is welcome at Waltons Parramatta’. Credit was also available in store using the Waltons All-purpose Charge Account. [34]
1977: Westfield expands overseas, buying a store in Connecticut USA. [35]
1986: Approval for extensive alteration and expansion of the shopping centre. The centre now comprised 95,000 square metres of retail floor space including major department stores, over 300 specialty shops and a four-theatre cinema complex. [36]
1986: New Woolworths Supermarket opened. Advertised as the ‘Fresh Food Market’, the new store promised fresh seafood, the best meat, a continental patisserie and deli, coupled with ‘bright lights and low-cost groceries’. [37]
1989: Proposal to expand the centre in land on the western side with frontages to Marsden, Aird, O’Connell and Campbell Streets. Part of the new building would be constructed over part of Aird Street and Marsden Street. In addition, an underground pedestrian underpass would link the shopping centre with the railway station precinct. [38]
1992: Proposal for the expansion of Westfield Parramatta to encompass properties on the north side of Aird Street between O’Connell and Marsden Streets, and the eastern half of the block bounded by Aird, Marsden, Campbell and O’Connell Streets. The alterations also include redevelopment of part of the original Westfield Shoppingtown on the corner of Argyle and Marsden Streets, and the northern side of Campbell Street. [39]
1994-1996: Company continued to expand its Australian portfolio to 30 centres. [40]
1995: Westfield Shoppingtown now the largest shopping centre in the southern hemisphere with improvements such as a medical centre, childcare and wheelchair access. New development was opened by NSW Premier Bob Carr in November 1995. [41]
1997: Westfield entered the New Zealand retail market. [42]
2000: The company was a major sponsor of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. And this year marked the entry of the company into the United Kingdom market. [43]
2000: Westfield Parramatta celebrated its 25th Anniversary with a visit by fashion models Jerry Hall and Claudia Schiffer. [44]
2003: Proposed expansion of Westfield Parramatta to include a new cinema complex across from the site of the $100 million Parramatta Transport Exchange. A skybridge would be constructed across Church Street linking the cinemas with the shopping centre. [45]
2004: Smoke-free zone including shops and carpark introduced at Westfield Parramatta in a joint campaign with the Western Sydney Area Health Service which sought to encourage safe and healthy behaviour. [46]
2005: $90 million extension opened Parramatta Westfield one of the top ten shopping centres in Australia based on annual sales which amounted to $574 million in 2004. [47]
2011: Westfield entered into a joint venture in Milan, Italy. [48]
2014: Split of Westfield Group into two companies – Scentre Group continues to manage the centres in Australia and New Zealand; Westfield Corporation owns and operates centre in the US, UK, and Europe. [49]
2017: Dec 12, 2017: Westfield Corporation is sold to the European company Unibail-Rodamco for $32 billion. The Lowy family retains a small stake in Scentre Group, which was not part of the sell-off. [50]

Cathy McHardy, Research Assistant & Anna Namuren, Research and Collection Services Co-ordinator, City of Parramatta, Parramatta Heritage Centre, 2017

References

[1] Westfield Holdings Limited. (1985). 25 years of the Westfield Group. Sydney: Diamond Press, p. 21.
[2] Seven great ways to shop at Waltons Parramatta: charge it ‘your way’ [Advertisement]. (1975, September 24). Parramatta Advertiser, p. 52.
[3] Westfield Holdings Limited. (1985). 25 years of the Westfield Group. Sydney: Diamond Press, p. 5.
[4] Westfield Holdings Limited, (1985) 25 years of the Westfield Group. Sydney: Diamond Press, p. 7.
[5] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[6] Westfield Holdings Limited, (1985) 25 years of the Westfield Group. Sydney: Diamond Press, p. 4.
[7] Masterplan Consultants, Kinhill Engineers & Hirst Consulting Services. (1989, March). Westfield rezoning: Parramatta. Environmental study: Proposed expansion of Westfield Shoppingtown Parramatta. Sydney: Masterplan Consultants, p. 7.
[8] (1974, September 4). Parramatta Advertiser, p. 3.
[9] Masterplan Consultants, Kinhill Engineers & Hirst Consulting Services. (1989, March).  Westfield rezoning: Parramatta. Environmental study: Proposed expansion of Westfield Shoppingtown Parramatta. Sydney: Masterplan Consultants, p. 7.
[10] Masterplan Consultants, Kinhill Engineers & Hirst Consulting Services. (1989, March). Westfield rezoning: Parramatta. Environmental study: Proposed expansion of Westfield Shoppingtown Parramatta. Sydney: Masterplan Consultants, pp. 7 & 21.
[11] Higginbotham, E. (1995). Report of the archaeological excavation of the site of Westfield Shoppingtown, Aird Street, Parramatta NSW, 1992. Haberfield, N.S.W: Edward Higginbotham & Associates, p. 2.
[12] Edward Higginbotham & Associates. (2010). Major archaeological excavations and projects in Parramatta. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from http://www.higginbotham.com.au/majorexcavations.html
[13] Stockburn, E. (2013, December 19). Australia’s retail history – the David Jones building Parramatta [Blog post]. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from http://arc.parracity.nsw.gov.au/blog/2013/12/19/australias-retail-history-the-david-jones-building-parramatta/
[14] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[15] Westfield Parramatta’s 25th anniversary: Birthday bash has flavour of the 70s. (2000, October 25). Parramatta Advertiser-City North, p. 27.
[16] Expansion plans. (2003, November 26). Fairfax-Sun, p. 3.
[17] Smokers targeted. (2004, July 14). Parramatta Advertiser-City North, p. 10.
[18] Westfield ready for retail ‘shake-up’ (2016, May 18). The Australian Business Review. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/news/westfield-ready-for-retail-shakeup/news-story/4cf0bc5445618ea3b85196d8e8c27404
[19] Meredith Walker & Associates. (1993). City of Parramatta heritage study: historic overview. Granville, N.S.W.: Marian Abboud, p. 12.
[20] Meredith Walker & Associates. (1993). City of Parramatta heritage study: historic overview. Granville, N.S.W.: Marian Abboud, p.13.
[21] (1980, July 9). Parramatta Advertiser, p. 59.
[22] Westfield Holdings Limited. (1985). 25 years of the Westfield Group. Sydney: Diamond Press, p. 3.
[23] (1980, July 9). Parramatta Advertiser, p. 59.
[24] Westfield Holdings Limited. (1985). 25 years of the Westfield Group. Sydney: Diamond Press, p. 7.
[25] Westfield Holdings Limited. (1985). 25 years of the Westfield Group. Sydney: Diamond Press, p. 7.
[26] Westfield Holdings Limited. (1985). 25 years of the Westfield Group. Sydney: Diamond Press, p. 4.
[27] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[28] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[29] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[30] Westfield Holdings Limited. (1985). 25 years of the Westfield Group. Sydney: Diamond Press, p. 4.
[31] Masterplan Consultants, Kinhill Engineers & Hirst Consulting Services. (1989, March). Westfield rezoning: Parramatta. Environmental study: Proposed expansion of Westfield Shoppingtown Parramatta. Sydney: Masterplan Consultants, p. 7.
[32] (1974, September 4). Parramatta Advertiser, p. 3
[33] Masterplan Consultants, Kinhill Engineers & Hirst Consulting Services. (1989, March). Westfield rezoning: Parramatta. Environmental study: Proposed expansion of Westfield Shoppingtown Parramatta. Sydney: Masterplan Consultants, p. 7.
[34] (1975, September 24). Parramatta Advertiser, p. 52.
[35] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[36] Masterplan Consultants, Kinhill Engineers & Hirst Consulting Services. (1989, March). Westfield rezoning: Parramatta. Environmental study: Proposed expansion of Westfield Shoppingtown Parramatta. Sydney: Masterplan Consultants, p. 7.
[37] Today, Australia’s most exciting food market opens at Westfield Parramatta [Advertisement]. (1986, September 9). Sydney Morning Herald, p. 6.
[38] Masterplan Consultants, Kinhill Engineers & Hirst Consulting Services. (1989, March).  Westfield rezoning: Parramatta. Environmental study: Proposed expansion of Westfield Shoppingtown Parramatta. Sydney: Masterplan Consultants, pp. 7 & 21.
[39] Higginbotham, E. (1995). Report of the archaeological excavation of the site of Westfield Shoppingtown, Aird Street, Parramatta NSW, 1992. Haberfield, N.S.W: Edward Higginbotham & Associates, p. 2.
[40] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[41] It’s the biggest and it’s created jobs! (1995, November 1). Fairfax Sun, p. 5.
[42] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[43] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[44] Westfield Parramatta’s 25th anniversary: Birthday bash has flavour of the 70s. (2000, October 25). Parramatta Advertiser-City North, p. 27.
[45] Heary, M. (2004, July 28). Two against Westfield. Fairfax-Sun, p. 7.
[46] Smokers targeted. (2004, July 14). Parramatta Advertiser-City North, p. 10.
[47] Dwyer, R. (2005, March 9). Going up at Westfield. Fairfax-Sun, p. 22.
[48] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[49] Westfield Corp. (2017). History. Retrieved 27/09/2017 from https://www.westfieldcorp.com/about/history
[50] Financial Review. (2017) Westfield strikes $32b deal with Unibail-Rodamco. Retrieved 13/12/2017 from http://www.afr.com/real-estate/westfield-strikes-32b-deal-with-unibailrodamco-20171212-h036v6