SUNLAND Group (ASX: SGD), inspired by an emerging food culture on the Gold Coast, has laid plans for a $100 million retail precinct to ignite a long-dormant development site at Mermaid Waters.

The Lanes, to be developed as part of its $850 million The Lakes project, will comprise 1.7ha waterfront precinct featuring urban laneways with café and dining outlets, a green market square and international-grade showrooms.

The community space will also will incorporate entertainment precincts, a hotel and outdoor amphitheatre for events.

Sunland managing director Sahba Abedian says the inspiration for the project comes from the emergence of small-village community-based retail environments on the Gold Coast in recent years.

"A beautiful example of this is the efflorescence of activity at the southern end of the Gold Coast at Palm Beach and Burleigh through the emergence of strip retailing and the identity that accompanies it, and the culture that emerges from it," he says.

"If you look in Brisbane, and areas such as James Street, you see the development of unique destination retailing that is more lifestyle based.

"Our focus for The Lakes is to create a very unique village precinct, but catering for more of a food and beverage dining experience coupled with destination retailing."

The Lakes has yet to go through the design process with Sunland enlisting acclaimed architectural firm Benoy for the task.

The development, expected to be delivered in stages from 2020, also will be retained by Sunland as part of its investment portfolio.

Sunland noted earlier this week that retail rents, mainly from Mariner's Cove on the Gold Coast, bolstered its latest full-year profit of $31.5 million.

"The Lakes will be a $100 m retail precinct that will underpin the foundations of the group moving forward," says Abedian.

"For us it's part of a sustainable earnings profile, and this will ensure we are strengthening the pillars of our earnings and that it complements our activities. It is a strategic decision for us to retain these assets and create long-term growth for the group."

The Lakes project has already proved profitable for Sunland which acquired the 42ha site on the corner of Broadbeach-Nerang Road and Bermuda Street in 2014 for $61 million.

Last year it achieved $33 million in sales from a 41-lot canalfront land release which sold out in seven weeks.

It has just launched a residential housing precinct and received expressions of interest for 50 per cent of the 30 lots in the first release.

"Sales activity there has been very strong," says Abedian. "It is a very strategic and unique site."

The Brisbane-based Sunland has a number of major projects in train on the Gold Coast as part of a $4.3 billion national development portfolio, including a residential high rise planned for the KFC site at Marine Parade in Labrador.

The company is waiting on final council approvals for that project.

The fate of The Mariner, the $600 million twin-tower redevelopment planned for Mariner's Cove and a signature project for the company, is still in the city council's hands.

However, The Heights residential project at Pimpama is delivering strong sales for Sunland from the first four stages released.

"South-east Queensland is very strong and has enjoyed some level of buoyancy over the past 12 months," says Abedian.

Sunland featured at number 32 on Brisbane Top Companies 2016.

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