Intu a new future for Nottingham’s shopping centres

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Intu’s plans for Nottingham are moving forward but it’s not going to happen quickly. Ben Taylor considers the impact this may have on the city.

We have had our first peek [on Tuesday] at what the improvements to the 40 year old Victoria Centre may look like. It’s long overdue but these plans should be welcomed and promoted to enable Intu to deliver progress for the 21st century.

The fear of course is how long it will take for the city council and Intu to agree on plans for the bigger picture, the Victoria extension and Broadmarsh redevelopment, and what impact this delay might have on our city.

Clearly our centres have an opportunity for much greater footfall as a top 10 retail destination.  By comparison, Westfield Derby attracts an estimated 24.6m shoppers annually, whilst Victoria Centre delivers 23m, setting a clear benchmark. Of course Westfield Derby is a new centre, and has everything under one roof including the all-important leisure offer.

The improvements to the Victoria Centre will go some way to address these issues. However, any delays to the planned redevelopment of the Broadmarsh, in my opinion, could restrict the city’s full potential. We will always fare better than our neighbours with the likes of John Lewis, House of Fraser, Hugo Boss, Cath Kidston, Jack Wills, along with the leisure offer. However, we need to maintain an attractive and vibrant city offer, especially with the constant increase in multi-channel retailing

Delays to Broadmarsh risk retailers being put off by our city because of our ‘front door’. This area is an important first impression for visitors arriving to the city centre by train. It’s not a good gateway to a city of this size and has a detrimental impact on attracting investment. Fortunately, there are some private sector developers such as Bildurn, with whom we are advising, which is taking steps to address this and redevelop parts of Carrington Street, complementing the new transport hub, helping to deliver the gateway the city deserves.

Intu’s plans will complete some great missing pieces to our retail offering, with the wider redevelopment, bringing with it some great opportunities for the independents. I’ve met several independents recently from cities such as Manchester and Birmingham, looking to open second stores, choosing Nottingham because of its reputation. But without surprise they are disappointed by the same factors – the walk from the station, the state of two the shopping centres, and the events we hold, or rather don’t hold, in Market Square.

The risk of the plans not progressing is not only in our ability to attract retailers, but also the effect it has on existing parts of our city centre, with areas such as Lister Gate and Wheeler Gate suffering. 

Looking at the delivery programme, if plans are approved by September the refurbishments will be completed in phases, with an estimated end date of spring 2016. Intu purchased Broadmarsh in 2011, so to refurbish the Victoria Centre, redevelop the Broadmarsh and pave the way for a 400,000 sq ft extension is a positive achievement in five and a half years. By way of comparison, Hammerson acquired and developed Leicester’s Highcross in a period of six years in much better economic conditions.

Progress needs to continue to keep retailers and shoppers interested in Nottingham. Without both of these, there is no scheme, and with no scheme we continue to have the problems that exist today. So let’s push forward with approval of the plans before the retailers and shoppers look to bag an alternative destination.