Heavyweight four line up for Croydon's Whitgift

By Paul Norman - Thursday, March 08, 2012 13:05

Royal London Asset Management and the Whitgift Trust will next week pick either Westfield, Hammerson, Grosvenor or Lend Lease as their preferred partner for the fiercely contested redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre in Croydon, CoStar News understands.

Jones Lang LaSalle was appointed by RLAM and Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (Anglo Irish Bank) controlled by Whitgift Trust to find a partner for the redevelopment of the 600,000 sq ft mall in December.

Together the parties have a 75% stake in the long leasehold of the centre.

CoStar News has learned that JLL has shortlisted four - Westfield, Lend Lease, Grosvenor and Hammerson - and will tell the heavyweight line up who has been successful next week.

If Australian shopping centre giant Westfield is selected the next steps will be relatively simple. Westfield has separately entered an exclusive agreement with the Whitgift Foundation, the freehold owner, to explore redevelopment options for the centre.

If another party is selected, however, then negotiations will need to begin with the Whitgift Foundation to find a way forward for Croydon’s key retail destination.

The shopping centre is 41 years old and is anchored by Marks & Spencer and Allders with other tenants including River Island, Clas Ohlson, H&M, Topshop, J. Sainsbury, Mothercare and Waterstones.

Vale Retail and Jones Lang LaSalle advise the Whitgift Foundation on the leasing for the retail at the centre; Savills and Stiles Harold Williams advise on the offices.

Hammerson is separately working on a comprehensive retail plan for Croydon to be worked up over the next five to 10 years to include both the redevelopment of its own nearby Centrale mall and the Whitgift Centre.

The developer is looking to combine the two to improve the retail core of the town.

Speaking at a session held by Develop Croydon at MIPIM yesterday Croydon council chief Jon Rouse said retail was critically important to the future of Croydon and it was good that clarity would be brought shortly at Whitgift.

He said: “Retail is also critically important and, as well as Hammerson’s plans for Centrale, it is well known that we are being fought over in terms of the future of the Whitgift Centre. We hope that, in a few weeks’ time, we will know who will be taking that development forward.”

Elsewhere he told delegates: “Our invitation to you is to come on board and get a piece of the action now, at the beginning of the cycle, and realise real dividends down the line as Croydon takes off.”

During the speech, Mr Rouse highlighted the town’s great location, quality of life and access to skilled labour as well as the massive investment Croydon Council is making in the town’s infrastructure, with funding support from the Mayor of London, Transport for London and Network Rail.

“This includes work under way to increase the capacity of East Croydon Station by 35 per cent, with a new bridge being delivered by 2013, as well as expansion of the tram network.

He added: “We are working to rebalance the town centre economy and want more people living in Croydon as well as working there. Through our opportunity area framework we want to see an additional 7,000 homes built in the town centre over the next 15 to 20 years.”


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