Completion of first stage of Lakewood Cambridge celebrated

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Greenstone Group development manager Ben Jones at Lakewood Cambridge.

Greenstone Group development manager Ben Jones at Lakewood Cambridge.

With the opening of its first stage this month the Lakewood Cambridge retail and residential development is truly taking shape.

And with the whole western side of the three-hectare site bordering lake Te Ko Utu now completed, it is becoming obvious just what an impact the mixed-use development will have on The Town
of Trees. 

“We are really happy with how it is coming together,” says Greenstone Group development manager Ben Jones. Greenstone Group are the project managers for the development, on behalf of the developers Porter Foster JV Limited.

“And we are also really excited to see stage two getting underway which will be finished next year,”

Under Greenstone Group’s project management, Foster Construction has completed the first stage of Lakewood Cambridge featuring two blocks in the west pragmatically known as Block B and Block F.   Block B comprises a three storey complex with six ground floor shops and 16 apartments on the upper floors. The shops nestled in this block are a Coffee Club, Bay Audiology, Pita Pit, Kabuki Sushi, a barber and a liquor store.

Block F which faces the complex’s main entrance off Queen St next to McDonalds and Nissan, includes a Hell Pizza, Epiphany Donuts, Motor Trade Finance, Cambridge software firm Nyriad, Vivo Hair & Beauty, Snap Fitness and a Repairtech store. All retail spaces and apartments in these two blocks are occupied.

Finishing stage one of Lakewood Cambridge is a significant achievement, says Ben. 

“It has been a two-and-a-half-year process to where we are now. When we started the site, a former railway yard, was a blank canvas. Waipa District Council has been very supportive. We’ve tried to design something that complements the town and caters to local needs.”

Also gratifying to Greenstone has been the response to Lakewood from Cambridge people and recognition that the retail outlets opening in Lakewood Cambridge are seen as complementary with the existing boutique businesses in the town centre. Cambridge people have spoken with their feet and most of the of the apartments and townhouses have so far been snapped up by locals.

“We think it’s a great reflection on how the locals are receiving Lakewood.”

LakewoodHuge planning involved
Ben says a huge amount of research went into designing and attracting the right types of businesses to Lakewood Cambridge. Before commencing the development, Greenstone commissioned three demographic reports where specialist economists studied the town and referenced BNZ Paymark data among other means to understand where local people were spending their discretionary money.

“It showed that a lot of that discretionary spend was outside the town.”

By examining the data Greenstone was able to identify the types of businesses and products that locals were demanding.

“You work backwards from that data and get an idea of what Lakewood tenants needed,” says Ben.

The research also showed the distinct advantages Cambridge has as a town which draw people to it.  Ben likens the town to Havelock North in Hawke’s Bay as an attractive place to live.

“Cambridge is very similar to that. A beautiful little town and only a 20 minute commute into Hamilton. From an Aucklander’s view that commute is nothing. You can definitely have the best of work and lifestyle out of Cambridge.”

LakewoodHe says Cambridge has all the “metrics” to attract businesses such as high population growth, good educational prospects, high income-earning residents and good lifestyle and weather.

“Cambridge hasn’t really had any new retail development of a sizeable nature for some years. When we first started planning Lakewood our gut feel was that there would be a number of businesses who would like to be in the town but haven’t had the opportunity. There is an extremely low vacancy rate in the CBD which is a good litmus test for whether a town needs more footprint.

“And now that’s what we’ve seen. Most of the businesses coming into Lakewood are either national brands or regional businesses that haven’t had any presence in Cambridge.”

Planning the layout of Lakewood Cambridge was a complex, task given the site is an unusual T shape coming off Queen St.

“You need to do a lot of master planning because it’s not your traditional retail or office accommodation site. It has a few challenges trying it connect it to the town centre and the lake reserve as well. From where we started originally, as a blank canvas, we probably went through about 20 different iterations and concept plans, refining, changing, and testing them.”

Second stage
The next block to be constructed will feature a 33-room hotel called the Hidden Lake Hotel with five retail shops on the ground floor.

“The hotel owner-operators are originally from the region. They are very experienced operators who have been running hotels in Australia for a number of years, but they saw this as a great opportunity to move closer to family and roots.”

The hotel block will be finished towards the middle of next year.

Construction will also soon begin on the centrepiece of Lakewood Cambridge, an entertainment hub ‘barn’ featuring a restaurant and pub surrounding by seating. The building will comprise big open ceilings and lots of space and glass fitting in with the equestrian barn look of Cambridge.

A third block also expected to be completed mid-next year comprises a large block of office space, retail and some medical-based businesses.

Further to the east on the site is land earmarked for a large child care centre. 

Fosters will shortly begin construction of the first block of townhouses, also expected to be ready mid next year. Ben says about 75 percent of the first block of townhouses are already pre-sold. In all
Greenstone plans 30 townhouses towards the eastern outlook of Lakewood, to go with the 16 apartments already completed in Block B.  He says the design of the townhouses has become quite bespoke as a number of owners have asked for bigger and personalised units.   Townhouses range in size with the largest now being more than 400 square metres including extensive garaging.

“They are very bespoke in their design. Everyone wants their own version of them.”

Ben says Greenstone Group has had a lot of feedback about how difficult it is to find parking in Cambridge CBD so has guaranteed there will be nearly 300 non-reserved car parks at Lakewood Cambridge. He doesn’t expect the parks to be utilised by people visiting the CBD.

“It’s about a five-minute walk into town so I’d be surprised if people would park here with the sole intention of walking into town given the abundance of amenities at Lakewood. The development has been deliberately designed with cross-visitation in mind, so for example a mother could drop her children off at childcare, visit the gym for an hour, then meet a friend for a coffee afterwards. “

Ben says construction of Lakewood has gone well with very few delays on site.

“Foster Construction has a very competent team in terms of project and site managers. It’s been a joint effort and we’re pleased with how construction is progressing particularly for a large build such as Lakewood”

LakewoodHe is also delighted with the design of Lakewood Cambridge’s buildings which have been planned to have a “heritage Cambridge” look which Ben says “is easier said than done”.

“It’s a bit of an art getting that quaint look just right and we are really happy with Ignite Architects who have brought lots of experience to this task.  At the start of the job we really challenged them to work with the council and with feedback from locals who wanted something on the site to really champion Cambridge.”

Ben says a great deal of attention and expense has gone into creating a good look and ensuring quality.

“For example the Block B apartments have very high studs and exposed ceilings. It’s all been done to look good rather than keep heights to the bare minimum to reduce costs. While construction has been a little more expensive, the end result is that much better.”

There are superb views over the reserve and lake from the apartments, townhouses and commercial areas along the lake edge.

“You are looking over both reserve and the lake – hence the Lakewood name. We are trying to promote the reserve and interaction with the shops.”

All the shops along the lake edge have dual access with entrances on both the southern and northern side so they connect with the reserve and the town centre.

Ben says the mixed-use development nature of Lakewood Cambridge is an increasingly common trend now. The key is to ensure the various uses work well together.

“You need a sense of privacy, good acoustic separation, accessibility, parking, security; it is all taken into account when you design these things to make it work. Done right – as Lakewood is – it looks amazing and drives spend for the shops so everyone wins.”

Positive for Cambridge
Ben is in no doubt that the development of Lakewood Cambridge is very positive for the town and he sees it as complementing the CBD’s “independent retailers feel”.

Lakewood“Lakewood is regenerating a disused yard which was being primarily frequented as an unofficial truck stop.  It is turning it into a feature and in doing so it is referencing the lake and making it a destination but without taking anything away from the town centre . The town centre is unique in a positive sense in that it still has that independent retailers feel. You can still go clothes or shoe shopping and you just don’t see that in the big centres.

“Lakewood is a different offering from the town; we see it as complementary and growing Cambridge. At Lakewood we have a lot of convenience and service shopping so it’s all complementary to the town centre.”

“We haven’t really had any noticeable negative feedback from anyone.  People say they are surprised by how big Lakewood Cambridge is but after all, it is a three hectare site so there’s a lot of space to fill. 

He says Lake Te Ku Outu is a “real hidden gem” and to connect it better to Lakewood and the town centre is a no brainer.

There are still a number of houses available at Lakewood Cambridge. These are being marketed through Cambridge Real Estate and Bayleys Real Estate Cambridge.

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Geoff Taylor

Waikato Business News editor Geoff Taylor. Email: geoff@wbn.co.nz