When Precinct Properties wrote up the business case for the $1 billion Commercial Bay development on Auckland’s waterfront, it counted on having 10 million visitors through the retail and hospitality hub every year.

In the event, its first 12 months counted 9m people through Commercial Bay's doors, almost twice the country’s population – and that's despite the impacts of closed borders to international visitors.

As tenants and landlord celebrate with a single candle on its birthday cake today, the building's 120 retailers and restaurants are also acknowledging local support in keeping them trading – with foot traffic ramping up by almost a quarter since April after streetscape work finished on lower Albert St and the trans-Tasman bubble opened up.

Today, Rodd & Gunn’s Lodge Bar & Dining is hosting an invite-only soiree. It will be party time also at both Poni Room and Saxon + Parole.

Calvin Klein is giving away umbrellas, Life Pharmacy’s handing out goody bags, and Tommy Hilfiger and Scarpa are rewarding purchases with gift bags too. Even Edmund Hilary is offering free merino beanies – if you spend at least $250.

Precinct chief executive Scott Pritchard said the response and support from Kiwis had been critical to making the centre work during a difficult trading year.

He said both the centre and its hospitality venues had proven to be a real drawcard for locals.

“Our experience so far is that their spaces have been leased so we’re seeing quite good demand for other retailers for the centre and that is comforting, particularly given covid and the challenges that the city has faced.” 

Despite the early teething pains, which led to Precinct providing financial support in some instances, only three of the centre’s hospitality and retailers closed their doors during that time.

It also saw the opening of Wynn Hamlyn, a Kiwi emerging designer, late last year and denim culture outlet Service Denim in March. 

Commercial Bay retail manager Andrew Trounson said food and beverage duo Simon & Less are also set to open a new concept store later this year.

Pritchard said attracting new stores is a testament to the already strong mix of retailers in the centre, which helped average spend jump more than 40% during key trading periods such as Christmas.

A strong magnet for the increased foot traffic is Commercial Bay’s New York-style food hall, Harbour Eats, which boasts 31 restaurants, bars and eateries. That attracts many of the 10,000 workers in the immediate vicinity during their lunch hours.

Pritchard said the $305m redevelopment of One Queen will provide the final piece of the Commercial Bay puzzle, bringing additional offices but also a six floor, 139 room Intercontinental hotel. 

This is just the above ground component as the shopping and office precinct also incorporates the City Rail Link (CRL) tunnels under its glitzy, international shops and eateries.

On completion, likely in early 2025, the CRL will be capable of channelling up to 53,000 commuters into and out of the CBD every hour.  

Which will be good news for Commercial Bay.