Construction has begun on one of Melbourne’s biggest shopping centre makeovers, which will create the fifth largest shopping centre in Victoria and form the backbone of plans to create a retail hub in the city’s outer east.

Work started last week on the $575 million redevelopment of Eastland Shopping Centre in the Melbourne outer eastern suburb of Ringwood. The project will see the 80,000 square metre centre expanded to include 58,000 square metres of new retail space, featuring 150 new stores.

The expansion will include a large David Jones department store, 9,000 square metres of public space and 2,302 new on-site car parking spaces as well as the addition of a 25,000 square metre office and hotel complex in the expansion’s second stage.

The makeover, which also includes a new town square, library and cultural centre, forms the centrepiece of the local Maroondah Council’s plans to create a retail ‘mecca’ in Melbourne’s outer east.

Apart from the new centre, efforts in this regard include an $80 million makeover of the nearby Ringwood Market site, which will feature the state’s second Costco warehouse and other retail space as well as a $66 million upgrade of the nearby train station and bus interchange – construction of which will begin next year and finish in 2016.

The Eastland expansion will span two levels for the most part and will create new south and east malls as well as an outdoor alfresco dining and entertainment area surrounding the new town centre space on the third/ground level, and will have a primary focus on creating more dining and entertainment options for the local area as well as high-end fashion.

The makeover is the third since the centre opened on a 5.6-hectare parcel of land just north of Maroondah Highway in the heart of the suburb in October, 1967.

It was almost completely demolished in the early 1990s in an expansion which subsequently saw a three stage opening of a new centre including retailers Myer, Safeway and Kmart. Further expansion in the early part of last decade, meanwhile, saw the addition of a 12 screen cinema complex as well as a new department store, supermarket and new restaurants.

Still, it has not been at all smooth sailing. Having been originally set to get underway in 2009, the expansion was delayed for several years, most likely because of the global financial crisis.

Scheduled for completion in time to open by Christmas 2015 (first stage), the works are expected to create 1,600 jobs during construction and 1,700 ongoing retail employment opportunities.

Both the Eastland and market sites are owned by Brisbane based commercial real estate outfit QIC Global Real Estate.