City council splashes out on second shopping centre in less than three months

Eastgate Shopping Centre

Just two months after it splashed £54 million on buying the St Oswald’s Retail Park in the city, Gloucester City Council is off shopping again, this time for the Eastgate Shopping Centre.

It’s the latest investment in the city centre alongside completed projects such as the new Transport Hub and plans for King’s Walk, King’s Quarter, the Railway Station and the High Street Heritage Action Zone in Westgate.

The City Council has acquired the long-term lease in the centre.  It already owns the freehold of the shopping centre and has leases on the rooftop car park and indoor market hall.

This news comes just days after one of the country’s biggest property investment companies called the bottom of the shopping centre slump after spending almost £23 million on two struggling properties. Bruntwood, owned by the Manchester-based Oglseby family company, bought Stretford Mall and the Stamford Quarter in Trafford in a 50:50 joint venture with Trafford council. Each invested £22.5 million in the centres and adjacent land suitable for development.

Chief executive Chris Oglesby said: “We believe that these two assets, assuming they get proactive investment, have reached the lowest point in their value and their value today represents a huge opportunity.”

With shopping habits changing due to the rise of online retail, Gloucester City Council plans to work in partnership with business, community and public sector partners to refocus the city centre with less reliance on traditional retail. More people living and working in the city centre and developing heritage and leisure experiences have been identified as ways of counteracting reduced demand for retail space.

The Council’s vision is that by 2025, the city centre will be transformed from one based on a traditional retail offer to one with a variety of experiences throughout the day and night for residents, workers and visitors.

Gloucester City Council has already secured £1.9m of investment as part of the Government’s High Street Heritage Action Zone initiative. Focused on Westgate Street, the Cathedral Quarter initiative will commence in April 2020 and will utilise the city’s heritage and diverse culture to transform the centre. The bid put a focus on making it the place where the city comes together to access services and participate in civic and community activities and events.

By purchasing the Eastgate Shopping Centre, the City Council will be able to proactively manage the retail offer in large parts of the city centre and develop plans to rebalance the mix of uses.

As well as giving the City Council greater control over the future direction of the city centre, the purchase also provides a sustainable and long term income for the council.

Paul James, cabinet member for regeneration and economy said: “This is another exciting acquisition for the Council that demonstrates our commitment to the city centre and gives us a greater ability to shape its future.

“Town and city centres are evolving but still have a vitally important role to play and it is right that local councils show leadership by investing in them and helping to ensure they can survive and thrive into the future.”

“The Council already has a number of financial interests in the Eastgate, and it makes good long term commercial sense for us to control it in its entirety. It also enables us to resolve the future of the indoor market and give traders the certainty they have been seeking.”