We went for a sneak preview and had a look around. If you're expecting a mall, prepare to be surprised.
The much awaited Commercial Bay is Auckland CBD's shiny new retail precinct. It's big, full of shops, beauty parlours, barbers and food court. But I wouldn't call it a mall.
It just doesn't feel like a mall. The concrete tiled floor, exposed wood details and plants galore make it feel like a stroll down an alleyway in a cool, international city. The eaves and lighting, in conjunction with high ceilings are cleverly designed to make you feel like you're outside.
The shops they have are brands you'd go out of your way for in gorgeously fitted out spaces - we spotted Yu Mei, Scotch&Soda, Sandro, COS, Edmund Hillary, Blush Florist and Just Another Fisherman. Plenty of the stores aren't anywhere else in Auckland.
As for the eateries, you won't find a maccas or a KFC anywhere, just a selection of well-loved eateries you already know plus a couple of snazzy newcomers. Among our old favourites are Best Ugly Bagels, Kokako, Kai Eatery, Juke Joint, Hawker & Roll, Sunny Town and Burger Burger. On the side of the new and "ooh what's this" there's Foodu Dumplings, The Poni Room, Oji Sushi, Daruma Ramen, Good Dog Bad Dog hotdogs, South American Oven, Aroy Thai and we could go on!
We especially like the addition of Billy Pot, where you can get oysters (see! not a mall!), Ghost Donkey where tequila fans can meet the spirit's smoky cousin Mezcal and of course, Public, an outdoor bar that happens to be indoors and has a very good selection of drinks...
We are also excited for the as-yet-unopened two restaurants, Saxon + Parole and the very mysterious Ahi, Ben Bayly's contribution. Plus there's three spaces for pop-up eateries so we have lots of reasons to keep our eyes peeled.
The only gripe we had is that the location means parking will always be a pain, even with a footbridge from the adjacent PWC building and carpark. That's just the nature of downtown: the traffic and parking are always a mess. But there's always public transport. And we suppose it's all the people coming to see places like this that makes the roads busy around here.
It's a difficult time to be opening such a place. We've all heard that times are 'uncertain' a hundred times a day since before level 4. Many existing small businesses are finding it hard staying open so to be opening a brand new store feels like hubris. Even so, the leases and agreements were signed years in advance, when the idea of a global pandemic was the stuff of science fiction. These businesses are largely local brands and their rents aren't cheap.
It's wonderful that the space feels so comfortable and special to be in and that they've chosen such great eateries. We are so excited to feel such a buzz around with all our friends asking what Commercial Bay is like and inviting us to go with them. We are overjoyed to tell you that it's cool, and un-mall-like. Because it's going to have to be to survive... And also because we can't wait to get back there.