Inside Westfield's Croydon revolution

By Paul Norman - Friday, June 01, 2012 13:00

Westfield is planning another evolution in its shopping centres product to create the “next generation” of retailer experience at its proposed £1bn makeover for Croydon’s Whitgift centre. CoStar News caught up with the global shopping centre giant.

Westfield will lodge its Allies & Morrison designed proposals to redevelop the Whitgift Centre mall and office complex within the next two months and will begin public consultation shortly.

John Burton, director of development, said the scheme intended to evolve its already completed large-scale schemes in London at White City and Stratford to react again to the changing demands of retailers and shoppers.

“We are looking at changing lifestyles. There is likely to be an emphasis on the technological and bringing together something that embraces the digital world.”

Burton added: “At Stratford what you saw was an exercise in masterplanning for the future. Westfield London was a new piece of critical mass in west London. At Croydon we intend to weave back disparate elements that have become tired in the town to create an environment that is relevant for retailers.”

Initial iterations of the scheme propose 1.5m sq ft of retail, dining and leisure with a major anchor store and around 150,000 sq ft of leisure including bowling and a cinema. It will also include three towers with one rising up to 32 storeys in height and including up to 600 homes and potentially a hotel.

Westfield is also eyeing a redesigned Whitgift Centre that joins up the new transport improvements and the rest of the existing town centre to “encourage further connected development”.

Many of the existing buildings will be reconstructed in a phased approach that will provide continuity of trade during redevelopment. 

Burton said that, as the company had done at Stratford City, the group was pressing on despite unresolved complex issues around the ownership, because it is the “way we can prove we are serious” and "we are hopeful that a mutual solution will be found".

In November of last year, Westfield agreed an exclusivity deal with the Whitgift Foundation, which owns the freehold and 25% of the leasehold of the mall, to redevelop the shopping centre.

In April of this year however Royal London Asset Management and IBRC Assurance Company (formerly Anglo Irish Bank), the owners of the remaining 75% of the leasehold, selected Hammerson as their preferred partner to develop the Whitgift Centre, which neighbours Hammerson’s Centrale.

The partners have said that the merger of Hammerson’s interests in the two centres will “create a unique opportunity to bring about a game-changing event for the benefit the whole town”.

Last month Hammerson gained consent from Croydon councillors for its £50m redevelopment of the Centrale centre with plans that include a cinema scheme opposed by the Whitgift Foundation as a direct competitor to the Whitgift centre.

Burton says that the Whitgift Centre is the appropriate place for a major leisure component in Croydon.

He confirms that the rival consortiums are yet to have entered any discussions about the centre.

“The point is at Westfield we have a great team working on this at full speed, with great designers and project managers and retailers know we can pull together the various elements to make the scheme work. We would not be investing if we were not sure of our position here.”

Burton continued: “In the past three-and-a-half years, Westfield has opened two iconic London centres, Westfield London and Westfield Stratford City and is very confident that it can deliver another outstanding development for the Croydon community.

“We are happy with where we are now in the UK. We have very strong assets in the best markets.”

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