I live in Melbourne's "leafy" eastern suburbs, about equidistant between two very different commercial centres. To the south is the Box Hill shopping centre/transport hub/mall/open sewer conglomeration, which, despite the vomit spatter and ever present threat of having a cigarette put out on your face, is nevertheless vibrant and honest and has a lot of shops with funny names (Nob Nobs, Hung Long Video, Hellboy e-gift).
To the north is Doncaster Shoppingtown, a 1970s shopping centre clustered around a small office tower and buried under several square miles of car park. The centre has recently undergone significant renovations, allegedly doubling the number of shops in the complex - just in time for the recession!
The final stage of the renovation was unveiled yesterday morning and I happened to be there to see it. Unfortunately I couldn't get past the burly men in suits who were guarding the roped-off VIP section, but I'm told the Premier was there, cutting a ribbon or whatever Premiers do when opening new shopping centres. (Perhaps they go to Target and lay the first by?) The whole place is incredibly shiny - we saw a guy mopping a load-bearing pillar! - and there are plenty of posters telling you how classy the joint is. Also, because there's a Myer in the building, there are pictures of Jennifer Hawkins and her one facial expression everywhere you look.
The new Shoppingtown is even more pretentious than the old one. There's a David Jones, a Colonial Fresh supermarket,where the fruit and veg are kept crisp by a constant drizzle of vapourised water, a shop called Jones the Grocer, which is about as wanky as it sounds. There is even a "butler service", whatever that means in the context of a shopping centre.
Westfield is clearly trying to position Shoppingtown as the shopping centre for this part of the world. (Previous title holder: Blackburn Square. Just kidding.) It will be interesting to see how it fares, especially with the economy in the toilet, and with competition from outlet malls like Brand Smart and the Do Fuck Off empire. No doubt by Christmas the various luxury services will have tapered off, the pillar-mopper will have been turfed onto the streets, and there will be a Dimmeys where David Jones used to be. That'll bring in the crowds - from Box Hill.