The Australian company behind the new commercial property shopping mall in Stratford has begun negotiations over a third site in the south of the city.
Westfield, developer of the commercial property mega-mall at Shepherd’s Bush in west London and the blue-chip Stratford City mall in east London, said it was in talks with UK charity Whitgift Foundation, to investigate the potential redevelopment of Croydon’s 1.2 million sq ft Whitgift mall.
Whitgift Foundation owns the mall’s freehold. The leasehold is owned by a number of companies including the Royal London Asset Management and Irish Bank Resolution Corp (IBRC), formerly Anglo Irish Bank. Media reports have stated Westfield could also be in talks to buy a 50% stake in the North End Mall, as well as other land in the town centre.
Westfield’s John Burton, who managed the Stratford City mall project close to the London 2012 Olympic Games venue, said: “Our arrangement with Whitfgift is designed to allow us now to work with all the parties concerned that have got an interest in there to try and bring forward the major development scheme.”
The location of commercial property mall Whitgift is highly rated by Westfield for its proximity to Gatwick Airport and it has the potential to draw in shoppers from outside of London. It is predicted up to three million shoppers could come to the new commercial property Westfield shopping centre, if plans go ahead.
Michael Gutman, the Managing Director of Europe and New Markets at the Australian Company, described Croydon as a “strategic location” which could in turn bring 3 million people to a part of London that is “under-served by high-quality retail and leisure facilities”.
Over 6 million people have already visited commercial property Westfield shopping centre in Stratford since it opened on September 13th. There is hope that a development in Croydon could encourage equally impressive numbers. Croydon is sharing £20m of funding from City Hall with Tottenham, as part of a post-riot regeneration scheme.
London’s mayor, Boris Johnson has also expressed his support for the redevelopment. “Westfield is already defying the economic downturn in east and west, and I am delighted they are now looking south. Croydon has huge potential.” He further added: “Alongside the millions of pounds investment for regeneration which I am channelling into the area, Westfield’s interest is the ultimate tribute to its future prosperity.”
A large number of local commercial property businesses were destroyed in the summer London riots, and big named retailers such as Carphone Warehouses have pulled out of the area because of this. Nonetheless there are high hopes that the new commercial property shopping mall could provide locals with future job opportunities. It could also be a key factor in Croydon’s 2012 city status bid.
However local residents are already at odds over the proposals with the issue attracting a large number of comments on This is Croydon news site. One resident, ’MrsDeeGee’, stated that a Westfield shopping centre, “Will ruin any small independent shop that is left, I am all for regeneration, but aren’t they taking this 5 steps too far?”
However, any development will have to include a proposal which occupies part of North End Allders. Westfield prefers large developments and commercial property department store Allders would potentially offer extra space for any developments.
Croydon Council leader Mike Fisher said he was hopeful the news could mark the beginning of a process of regeneration in the borough, when speaking to local news site, This is Croydon, he stated: “Westfield’s proposed investment is the latest exciting development for Croydon and a further sign of the growing business confidence in the borough. It sends a very strong signal that we are on course and on our way.”
Furthermore, interim chief executive Maria Chapman-Beer of Croydon Business Improvement District (BID) said: “The news that Westfield is in talks with the Whitgift Centre is a sign of increasing business confidence in Croydon.”
“Croydon already has a reputation as one of the best retail Town Centres in the south and if this development goes ahead it can only improve Croydon’s standing in the ranks. We will watch the developments with interest but welcome any investment that helps regenerate the Town Centre and creates new jobs,” she further added.
Mr Gutman, Westfield’s Europe managing director, stated: “There is the potential for a major retail scheme in this strategic market which has been identified in the past by the John Lewis Partnership as a possible key location. The local authorities have very high aspirations to implement a major retail scheme and the regeneration of the town centre.”
He further added: “Westfield and the Whitgift Foundation will seek a constructive dialogue with all the key stakeholders over the coming weeks and months to seek to bring this much-anticipated project to fruition.”
However, plans to redevelop the commercial property Whitgift centre into a third mega-mall in London have hit difficulty after a key stakeholder of the site said it had not been consulted about the redevelopment.
Royal London Asset Management, which owns 25 per cent of Whitgift’s centre’s leasehold, said it had been ‘surprised’ to hear that the Whitfgift Foundation had entered into an exclusive agreement with Westfield.
A spokesman for Royal London Asset Management (RLAM), said: “While we at Royal London are admires of Westfield’s London developments, we are aware of several other major shopping centre developers similarly capable of delivering an excellent scheme in Croydon.”
“To achieve the best possible outcome for all stakeholders, we are continuing with the ongoing process of identifying the most appropriate partner with which to move the development forward and are excited by the opportunity that this presents.”
On Monday it came to light that Hammersons might be their favoured partner, however the firm remained silent surrounding the speculation.
A spokesman added: “As an investor and owner in Croydon with the purchase of Centrale Shopping Centre we believe the town has a great consumer catchment with room for retail growth.”
“We are confident about our plans to improve Centrale and have a real desire to enhance Croydon’s retail credentials and create a destination with new catering and leisure facilities for families to enjoy.”
Other retailing developers have shown interest in the development of the commercial property mall, including specialist developer Capital Shopping Centres, the Australian developer Lend Lease, listed property company British Land and Meyer Bergman and Area.