Westfield confirms rethink on Croydon mall, but 2023 opening still promised
The good news is that speculation this week that a delay in building the planned Westfield/Hammerson mall in Croydon could mean the project is to be cancelled wasn’t confirmed on Thursday. But we did hear that the developers are rethinking their plans.
As Westfield parent company Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield delivered its full-year results, it emerged that the combined pressures of Brexit and “structural changes” on the high street mean that it’s now “reviewing” the £1.4 billion development.
So what does that mean? Well, it says it remains committed to the mall and that it will open in 2023 as planned with the building work set to start next year.
The Evening Standard quoted the developers saying: “There are challenges surrounding the UK economic and political outlook and the structural changes facing retail have put some UK retailers under pressure. We are reviewing the scheme to ensure it responds to changing retailer requirements and is appropriate for the future.”
The mall is currently planned to have John Lewis and M&S as anchor stores and there has even been speculation around these anchor tenants with retail analyst Nick Bubb telling the newspaper that “retailing is changing quickly given the inroads being made online. I suspect the developers are now having second thoughts about both the choice of anchors and the major space users in the centre.”
The planned mall is part of a wider £5.25bn regeneration of Croydon and will see the existing Whitgift Centre being demolished. The new mall rising in its place will have half a million square feet of retail space and more than 300 shops.
The rethink about the project is perhaps understandable given that Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield’s results yesterday were partly dragged down by a weaker-than-expected contribution from its existing UK shopping centres. The retail scene in Britain is changing at its fastest pace ever and even in an era when supermalls have an in-built advantage over smaller shopping centres, any project that’s going to cost billions and help drive Westfield and Hammerson’s performances in the South East for decades to come needs to be fully future-proofed.
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