Recently in Regeneration Category
Last month's seminal announcement over Croydon's retail future led me, among many others, to ponder over what the exact specifications of the new joint venture project would be.
I suggested that a new application towards the end of 2013 might take on the guise of Hammerson's "Whitgift Quarter" proposals, spanning across Croydon's two mammoth retail developments, Centrale and Whitgift, rather than separate applications for each scheme.
It appears I was wrong.
Two weeks ago, Croydon Council registered (for the first time) the full application lodged in September by Westfield, after having put forward a scoping opinion a couple of months prior. The applicant is now listed on the (amended) application form as 'Westfield Shoppingtowns Limited & Hammerson UK Properties PLC':
Strangely, the applicant listed on the 'application details' has changed over the weekend from the above to simply 'Westfield Shopping Towns Limited'. What we read into that, I don't know.
All documents within the newly-registered application make occasional reference to Centrale's role in the Croydon facelift, and make almost no mention of Hammerson at all! It's also interesting that the Design & Access statement for 'Westfield Croydon' (!) makes a pointed reference to the successful regeneration of King's Cross as being a precedent for a redevelopment of this scale.
So it appears that Hammerson is happy to "piggy-back" onto Westfield's concept for the Whitgift Centre redevelopment, having already secured consent in May 2012 to part-redevelop Centrale into a distinctly mixed-use mall.
Can we conclude, therefore, that the project will move forward as a double-pronged concept? Will the Westfield-branded shopping mall outlined in the new application come to pass? Can the 170,000 sq ft of leisure space proposed by Westfield coexist with the 99,000 sq ft currently permitted at Centrale?
If the answer to all of these is 'yes', then the exciting announcement made in January may not, in fact, yield an organic regeneration brainwave concocted by two retail heavyweights - but actually simply serve as a catalyst to accelerate two separate projects which could possibly have come to pass independently.
I suppose I would just be a little disappointed that the 'vision' for Croydon might simply turn out to be a staccato amalgamation of separate concepts, as opposed to an inspired 'meeting-of-minds' development spanning over both malls which could truly rubber-stamp the identity of the unique joint venture on the south London town.
If the development is to be as described herein, then the key piece of cross-party co-operation will come in ensuring the complementary nature of the retail and leisure offer across both redeveloped schemes. 'Hammerfield' must ensure that the newly created "Quarter" evolves as a singular, functional retail core, and not as one entity prospering at the expense of the other.
Regular readers of our retail blog will recall an earlier entry on the brewing row between owners and tenants of the Burlington Arcade on Piccadilly, W1, over plans to breath new life into the building.
Meyer Bergman, the European real estate firm that bought the Grade II-listed arcade in October 2010, has now revealed the first pictures of proposed new restoration works following the receipt of Planning and Listed Building Consent.
Work has now started and the first phase, which will focus on restoring the upper elements of the arcade, is expected to be complete by the end of April. It involves the installation of up-lighting and the re-painting of the painted elements in the original ecru white colour used in 1819 when the arcade first opened.
Work is being undertaken out of trading hours to allow shopkeepers to remain open for business throughout the process.
Markus Meijer, chief executive of Meyer Bergman, Burlington Arcade's co-owner, said: "We expect these works to be complete in time for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and I am particularly excited that, once complete, we will have a view not seen for over 100 years and possibly not since Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1897."
Poor Croydon. The town centre is crying out for a cohesive, coherent retail-led regeneration strategy but, judging by this week's events, I suspect it will be some time before a happy conclusion is reached.
It transpired that Royal London and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation, formerly Anglo Irish Bank, which together own 75% of the long leasehold and the management of the mall, had no idea that
The new agreement has all the potential to frustrate IBRC in particular, since it has been advised by Jones Lang LaSalle throughout 2011 on a strategy both for its stake and the wider redevelopment of the Whitgift shopping centre.
The indications so far are that the brewing storm will accelerate Royal London and IBRC's ambitions to seek out their own development partner for the mall.
Now you can bet that Hammerson, the new owner of neighbouring shopping mall Centrale, and Minerva, which long held ambitions to develop out a neighbouring Croydon retail scheme,
So which investor - developer will catch Royal London and IBRC's eye? And what will be the reality of having potentially two parallel development agendas for one shopping centre?
For those familiar with the development of Croydon town centre, this will be just another twist in a long-running saga. But for those new to the scene: watch this space. You're in for a ride.
The brewing row between the owners and tenants of the Burlington Arcade on Piccadilly, W1, has a distinct sense of déjà vu about it.
More than 34,000 people backed a petition in January 2010 calling for action after 150 traders were ejected from Portobello Market, W11, in favour of an All Saints store.
They argued that the changes to Lipka's
Fast forward more than a year and a half, and the same argument is now being thrashed out under the arches of the Grade II-listed arcade in Piccadilly.
Meyer Bergman and Thor Equities, the owners of the Burlington Arcade, are threatening to replace boutique retailers, some of whom have traded there for more than 50 years, with glitzy brands such as Jimmy Choo. They have also hired New York-based retail guru Peter Marino, famed for his black leather cap and sunglasses combo, to head up a reported £2.5m makeover of the arcade.
Daniel Bexfield, who has run a silver shop in the Burlington Arcade for 13 years, has branded the joint venture's plans for the arcade as "
As the mood at the arcade becomes increasingly sour and Bexfield's protest gathers momentum - film director Michael Winner recently waded in - it's hard to see an easy and peaceful solution to this familiar dispute.
The retail property sector is set for another bruising as the Office for National Statistics' confirmed this morning that the retail prices index rose to 5.6% in September - the highest annual inflation rate for over 20 years.
The BRC estimates that the new RPI figure threatens to land the retail sector with a £350m business rates increase next April since the uniform business rate is set taking into account the RPI inflation rate at September 2011.
This of course comes at a time when retailers are already grappling with an increase in VAT, low bank lending levels and fragile consumer confidence.
BCSC has been quick to pounce, warning that high levels of business rates will impact retailers' expansion plans. It will in turn also affect the viability of retail development, which is dependent on securing retailers and acceptable levels of rental income.
BCSC, in its letter to local government minister Bob Neill today, writes: "As occupiers' business rates liability continues to increase, a greater share of occupancy costs will be absorbed by rates, eroding potential rental values and therefore the viability of proposed developments."
It is evidently time for the government to start paying closer attention to its independent review of the