A frozen White Pointer shark, a world domino toppling attempt and visits by showbiz stars and the nation’s leaders were among the added attractions in the early years of the new “shopping mecca”, Westfield Shoppingtown Hurstville, which opened in 1978.
The project, which was announced in 1975 and cost $30 million, was hailed as “the start of a new and greater shopping era for St George”.
Hurstville had previously been the main shopping centre in the southern suburbs, but had suffered from the development of Southside Plaza in Rockdale (1963), Miranda Fair (1964) and Roselands (1965).
In addition, the super centre above Hurstville railway station, which also opened in 1965, never got beyond the first stage.
Hurstville Council set out to attract a major regional shopping centre, believing this would also help struggling businesses along Forest Road, where a mall was planned.
Hundreds of shoppers and a Scottish band welcomed Premier Neville Wran when he opened the new complex on Tuesday, October 10, 1978.
In a special Saturday edition of the Leader previewing the big day, Westfield predicted more than 100,000 shoppers a week would pour through the doors to experience the ‘‘ultra modern supermarkets’’ and fashion, hardware, homeware and variety stores.
“‘Under one vast roof, a shopper can buy a dazzling range of articles,”’ the report said.
“‘Leading fashion chains, some establishing in St George for the first time, have fitted out their stores equal to the best in Paris and New York.”’
Mayor Gary Punch said it was the culmination of five years of effort by the council to attract a regional shopping centre and, in many ways, was a joint enterprise between the council and Westfield.
The council had sold the developer some of the sites it needed and had also transferred a 99-year lease on an area in Rose Street which had been a council car park for 380 cars.
In return the council had obtained from Westfield a similar lease over two storeys of parking for almost 1500 cars.
The development included a $250,000 park on the roof of one of the centre’s car parks, which has since disappeared.
A refurbishment and expansion of the complex was done in 1990.
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