Land and store space in the Sylvia Park development is let out to a wide variety of major retailers, one cinema complex and two supermarkets. In addition, the centre has franchises of all major New Zealand banks and a wide variety of other retailers. The centre employs approximately 2,500 staff of which only four are security guards and was drawing about 12,000 shoppers at a time during the weekends of the 2007 winter months.
In a rating of New Zealand shopping centres by a retail expert group in 2008, Sylvia Park received four stars, the maximum rating, based on the criteria of amount of shopping area, economic performance, amenity and appeal as well as future growth prospects. Especially praised were the wide catchment of shoppers and the motorway accessibility.
The name Sylvia Park is from the large country house/stud farm built there in the late 19th century. It was the country residence of Sir Maurice O'Rorke, one of the first Speakers of the House. Sir Maurice used the land primarily for horse breeding. The house was demolished in the 1960s. From 1943 until 1992, Sylvia Park was the site of an extensive Army supply stores complex built by the American Forces during WWII. After the war these buildings were used by the NZ Defense Forces and a mix of industrial users. The buildings, which gradually became empty, were demolished for the shopping mall. Carbine Road is named after the racehorse Carbine who was foaled at Sylvia Park Stud.
The development is owned by Sylvia Park Business Centre Ltd (SPBCL), a subsidiary of Kiwi Property Group. The development is situated on 24 hectares of land, a large part of which is still to be developed as of the late 2000s. Kiwi Property acquired the land in two transactions in 1995.
However, the land was at that stage zoned for industrial use by the Auckland City Council. The developers asked the council to modify the District Plan to allow high-density commercial use, a change which the council supported, and drafted into "Plan Change 4". However, the plan change was opposed by the Ngati Maru Iwi authority, which represents Māori interests in the area. A December 2001 decision of the Environment Court of New Zealand confirmed the plan change. Demolition and construction began in 2004, with retail construction beginning in 2005.
Stage One of the development opened to the public on 6 June 2006. The opening received nationwide television and radio coverage the day before, as the development is one of the largest in New Zealand. This resulted in a very high shopper turnout on the opening day, and despite planning by SPBCL, caused severe gridlock on the notoriously busy Auckland Southern Motorway as well as major arterial routes in the vicinity of the centre, including the South-Eastern and Mount Wellington Highways. Transit New Zealand and SPBCL took the unusual step of recommending people postpone trips to the mall. As part of the conditions of being granted planning permission SPBCL was required to manage traffic flows to the site, and had the traffic jams continued would have faced an accelerated timetable for upgrading key roads. The congestion did force SPBCL to implement a traffic monitoring programme ahead of schedule. Stage Two of the development opened in August 2006 and expanded the fashion, beauty and food retailers of the centre.
In contrast to the initial interest, weekday retail sales were soon considered to be flagging, with the centre being nicknamed 'Spooky Park' by some. The owners noted that this did not extend to weekend sales, and that the centre had in the meantime gained during the weekdays as well.