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Worcester Revamp Completes

15th August 2017

Opportunity Fund’s redevelopment of the former Cathedral Plaza shopping centre in Worcester has opened with a new F&B-led offer

Salmon Harvester Opportunity Fund – the JV between Salmon Harvester Properties and the NFU Mutual – bought the run – run down Cathedral Plaza in Worcester in February 2013 on the basis that radical steps were required if the 1960’s precinct was to do justice to its prominent location being Worcester Cathedral.

The £20m scheme saw an obsolete hotel demolished while the local authority has re-routed roads to create a range of restaurant units overlooking new public square, and on opening day at the end of July 2017 the 110,000-sq. ft. of new space was 98% let.

The new leisure line up at Cathedral Square includes Ask, All Bare One, Byron Hamburgers, Cosy Club, Miller and Carter, Fitness4Less, Yo Sushi!, Kung Fu and Starbucks. Only one 3,500 sq. ft. unit on the first floor next to Miller and Carter remains available to let.

SHPOF fund manager Matthew Meaden says “This redevelopment redefines the retail and leisure pitch in Worcester and brings much needed regeneration to this part of the city centre. We have brought some big-name brands to the city, by providing the right size and quality of unit in the heart of Worcester”.

But it’s not all been plain sailing and asset manager, Nick Webb, explains that the project team faced a number of challenges, “it’s been a complicated project in a conservation area and facing the Grade 1 – listed cathedral,” he says, “And our contractor, Speller Metcalfe, had to work around existing tenants including Travelodge who continued to trade”.

In the most extreme case, Pizza Express continued to serve dough balls and American Hots while the upper floors above its restaurant were demolished and redeveloped with new flats. Webb compliments the centre management team for keeping the existing centre alive through the project. “it’s been a technically challenged scheme and they needed all their softer skills to keep people on-side”, he says.

In addition to injecting an F&B offer into the scheme, the rental line-up has been revamped. A run of old units – typically no more than 500 sq. ft. each – was demolished to create a 20,000-sq. ft. MSU which has been pre-let to Wilko, while existing anchor H&M has extended back into the mall. “We’ve pretty much used all of the obsolete space in the centre”, says Webb.

Monsoon was one of the few retailers to pull out of the existing centre but Hotel Chocolat has been signed to take the vacant unit.

Webb is clear that the scheme could not have succeeded without co-operation between the public and the private sectors. “The council had ambitions for the southern end of the high street, but they needed to be able to buy in at the right price,” he says.

“We arrived at partnership approach we could both buy into. For instance, the council started the work on the public realm before we signed the contract, showing a real commitment”.

Financially, the scheme has worked with the leisure element achieving rents of £40 psf on the ground floor and £30 per sq. ft. at first floor. “Throughout the project rents moved on with each letting”, says Webb. “All but one of the tenants are new to Worcester.

They recognised that Worcester is pretty affluent with a self-contained catchment.”
So, what’s next for SHPOF? “We’re now looking for new opportunities,” says Webb. “We know there are other schemes out there that need repositioning and we want to get our hands dirty and improve things”.