The owner of the Canberra Centre, QIC, wants to close 100 car park spaces and act quickly to secure an ''internationally recognised retailer''.
Property commentators were speculating yesterday QIC was on the brink of securing Zara, the Spanish fashion distributor Inditex's fast-growing global business which opened in Sydney's Pitt Street Mall and Melbourne's Bourke Street Mall last year.
QIC spokesman Robert Carter said a development application now before the territory's planning agency, proposed to consolidate three existing tenancies in the Ainslie Avenue arcade and a portion of existing car parking spaces into one site.
Mr Carter said QIC was working with a few individual retailers to relocate them within the centre.
QIC has another development site at the rear of the mall facing Cooyong Street, and last year submitted plans for a $500 million mixed-use development.
While the ACT government has been pushing for development on that site, which has approval for offices, 300 apartments and retail space, no work has begun.
Property commentators say work won't begin until QIC secures a Commonwealth tenant to occupy the office space.
The development application for QIC's latest proposal includes a lease variation to create an additional 1340 square metres above Target and to reduce parking from 1610 spaces to 1502 spaces for that part of the centre.
The car park slab will be demolished to make way for the ceiling of the new retail store.
''We regularly review the centre's retail offer and layout to ensure customers continue to benefit from access to an extensive range of retail outlets and service providers within Canberra Centre,'' Mr Carter said.
''We believe the proposed consolidation is an opportunity to further enhance the centre's retail mix and create a more dynamic and convenient shopping experience.''
The development application says while car parking spaces will be lost, total parking is still in excess of planning regulations.
Meanwhile, the Council of Small Business of Australia's executive director, Peter Strong, says QIC's latest plan comes at a time of uncertainty for bricks-and-mortar retailing.
''It will be interesting to see what impact it has on other big retailers, let alone the little fellas. Another big retailer means more boredom because, in the end they are all much the same.''
Mr Strong said over the past decade international retailers had been trying to break into the Australian market dominated by Coles and Woolworths, which controlled 80 per cent of the market.
The biggest losers would be Coles and Woolies. Smaller retailers had already been ''screwed over''.
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