It was packed to the rafters at Stockland Green Hills on Thursday as the largest stage of the $414 million redevelopment was opened to the public.
A 5,900 square metre Target, as well as Lorna Jane, Ally, Universal Store, The Body Shop were just some of the 75 big names that opened in the new section.
A 500 seat food court also opened with 12 new food retailers, and more are set to be added in the next few months.
The number of shoppers keen to be the first to see the new section caused havoc for parkers though. The grand opening was delayed as dignitaries searched for a spot, despite another 490 parks opened.
Perhaps the most unique addition on Thursday was the new quiet room, which is catered towards people on the Autism Spectrum to provide a peaceful place to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the centre. A new inclusive playground was also opened as part of stage three, which complements the inclusive amenities opened in September.
“We really tried to widen our view, there are so many people with different needs in the community and we want to cater for them,” Stockland Green Hills centre manager Chris Travers said.
“It’s going to be a really exciting Christmas period for Maitland.”
The busy Christmas period does mean continued pressure on car parking. Mr Travers said he expected the festive season to be a “testing” time for drivers.
He was quick to point out however that more car parks would open in March and that parking would remain free all day every day.
Mr Travers said it was “so satisfying” to give such a great centre to the community.
“There are some really great retailers, Maitland people no longer have to drive to Newcastle to do their shopping,” he said.
Paterson MP Meryl Swanson said Green Hills was more than a shopping centre, it was a community hub.
“This is the emergence of something completely new in our region,” she said.
“This is not just a place to come and spend money. It means jobs, it means quality of life and it means a fantastic experience right here in East Maitland.”
Stockland group executive and CEO commercial property John Schroder paid tribute to the support of Maitland Council, which he said was a “standout” compared to other councils around Australia.
Maitland mayor Loretta Baker said it was a huge milestone in the development, and that she was “blown away” when she first walked in on Thursday.
“This centre is going to play a very important role in our community for years to come,” she said.