Melbourne’s Chinatown precinct has become so popular it is jumping its borders.ASIAN retailers are stretching the boundaries of Melbourne’s famed Chinatown precinct with demand for retail space flowing into nearby streets.
Chinatown runs along Little Bourke Street from Swanston to Exhibition, a route lined with many well-known eateries, and the district has long-since expanded into adjoining laneways, some of which house institutions such as the Chinese Museum and the Flower Drum restaurant.
But CBRE director Max Cookes says recent lease deals involving a diverse mix of Asian retailers show the district is spreading further.
“Chinatown is no longer confined by Little Bourke Street but is literally bursting at the seams, expanding across cross roads and laneways including Swanston Street, Russell Street, Heffernan Lane and Market Lane,” Mr Cookes said.
Recent lease deals outside Chinatown’s borders include Korean restaurant Guhng taking space at 310 Elizabeth Street, Taiwanese bubble tea franchise Chatime leasing 259 Swanston Street and Taiwanese dessert chain MeetFresh moving into number 251 on the same street, he said.
Others include Sydney-based Malaysian restaurant Mamak establishing a venue at 366 Lonsdale Street, Korean yoghurt concept Cacao Green leasing space at 235 Bourke Street, South Melbourne retailer Dim Sim moving into 2 Elizabeth Street and Asian bakeries Bread Kingdom and Breadtop taking space at 111 Lonsdale and 55 Elizabeth streets, he said.
Chinatown has one of the highest occupancy rates in the CBD as well as being one of the most rarely sold property pockets in Melbourne, Mr Cookes said.
Because buildings and leases were so tightly held, more and more Asian retailers were moving beyond the area’s traditional boundaries.
New leases outside of Chinatown were also being driven by the growth in the number of people living in the city who were from Asian backgrounds, he said.
Census data shows that between 2006 and 2011 the proportion of residents in Melbourne from an Asian background rose from 23 to 26 per cent of the city’s citizens.
Savills head of leasing Michael Di Carlo said Daiso, a Japanese shop that sells everything for $2.80, recently opened in the basement of Midtown Plaza on Bourke Street.
The top end of Elizabeth Street was also becoming more popular with Asian retailers, who generally focus on ”high foot traffic” locations, because of the numbers of students in apartments in the area, he said.
Asian banks were also developing a city presence with China Construction Bank signing a five-year lease for 410 Collins Street, CBRE city sales director Mark Wizel said.
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