Retail giant eyes new Leopold site

Australian retail giant Harvey Norman has confirmed plans to build a third Geelong store after securing a strategic landholding in an $11m deal.

The retailer purchased a 6722sq m farm property on Melaluka Road, Leopold.

Though the property is zoned as farming land, it is Geelong council’s preferred expansion path for the neighbouring Gateway Plaza shopping centre.

A Harvey Norman Holdings spokesman said the first stage would be a large formal retail development anchored by a Harvey Norman franchise, to be co-located with multiple other retailers.

The project is estimated to be delivered three years from now, he said.

“We have been watching the Geelong region for an extended period, searching for the right opportunity,” the spokesman said.

“Leopold is strategically and centrally located on the Bellarine Peninsula.

“There is already a successful shopping centre and Bunnings adjoining the site.

“There is a strong and growing population catchment on the peninsula. The catchment warrants a Harvey Norman store, and local customers have a lack of local large format retail offers.”

The region’s third Harvey Norman store would join Bunnings, Kmart, Coles and Aldi as the anchor tenants. The site doubles the size of the retail precinct at Leopold.

Billionaire co-founder and Harvey Norman Holdings chairman and executive director Gerry Harvey and chief executive officer Katie Page visited Geelong to inspect the Leopold property before proceeding with the purchase, Darcy Jarman selling agent Tim Darcy said.

The $11m deal was settled after the company completed due diligence to ensure it could redevelop the site, which has frontages to Melaluka Rd and Clifton Ave, Mr Darcy said.

He said an expressions of interest process attracted more than 100 direct inquiries, and although there was significant interest from investors seeking to create a turnkey development site, Harvey Norman emerged as the most likely buyer.

“Harvey Norman are very well serviced in the Geelong region to the north and to the south but haven’t got a presence out to the east,” Mr Darcy said.

Bellarine Peninsula towns have been heaving amid record population growth in recent years.

“That’s why these sub-regional shopping centres and homemaker centres work quite effectively,” Mr Darcy said.

“Look at the growth in Leopold, Drysdale, Ocean Grove, Point Lonsdale, Indented Head and St Leonards. That whole centre will gather some impetus.”

Harvey Norman’s expansion plans comes as US retailer Costco revealed it was eyeing potential sites for three new Victorian stores, including in Geelong.

Charter Hall Retail REIT acquired the Gateway Plaza shopping centre in 2019 from Vicinity Centres which completed a massive expansion program.