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New car city takes shape
Multi-million-dollar Essendon Fields dealership precinct takes shape in Melbourne
6 Feb 2008
A CAR dealership city, complete with an aeroplane level crossing, is taking shape in Melbourne.
Backed by Linfox and Beck Corp, Essendon Fields is a new office, commercial and retail development to be built in the grounds of Essendon Airport.
The airport still functions and the runways remain, but the hangars have been relocated and a new road network with freeway interchange constructed to accommodate the new retail centre that also includes a supermarket and other retail buildings.
One of the new roads crosses the access strip for a corporate jet hangar, which meant Essendon Fields had to spend a significant amount of money installing a level crossing, complete with rolling steel barriers and flashing lights.
The area that will house the car dealerships runs next to the Tullamarine Freeway and is called Auto Alley.
Work has already started on five dealerships including Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Hyundai and Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge outlets, while the construction of a Ford dealership is scheduled to begin within weeks. All dealerships are expected to open this year.
Leasing agents are also currently in discussions with other major brands.
Linfox and Beck Corp launched its $500 million plan to develop Essendon airport in 2005, four years after securing a 99-year lease from the federal government.
The first stage included the construction of the DFO shopping strip on the city-side of the site.
Leasing Agent Cunningham Property Consultants identified the Essendon Fields site as a potential new-car dealership city, drawing dealers from the nearby Keilor Road car dealership strip.
"The difficulty with Keilor Road was that the sites are too small for a modern functioning dealership and service centre," said Cunningham Property Consultant's Craig Cunningham.
"It is pretty congested with trams and the like, but the passing traffic was pretty light-on at around 16,000 a day. At Essendon there are 100,000 motorists that go past every day and lots of space." Around $45 million has already been earmarked for the Auto Alley project.
The sites can't be purchased and are instead available with 10-year leases with three five-year options.
Mr Cunningham said Auto Alley made it easy for car customers to visit all the different brands without having to make separate trips.
"There is a neutral carpark in the central hub. Customers can park there and walk to all the different dealerships," he said.
"We will have a café in the hub, so customers can have a coffee and relax. They don't have to get in the car and drive to all the different dealerships." The Auto Alley complex also features a central car storage building to free up dealership space that is located 400 metres away from the main dealership area.
Essendon Hyundai already operates a new dealership on the Essendon Fields site, near the DFO centre, but this is a temporary building.
It is expected Hyundai will move into a new facility in the Auto Alley section of the site in September.
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