Valuation statement: Shrewsbury shopping centres
Shropshire Council has reported that the statutory valuation at 31 March 2021 of the Shrewsbury shopping centres’ is £12,350,000, compared with £17,500,000 in March 2020.
This drop in property value is not unique to Shrewsbury. There are widely reported falls in value across the UK as retailers and leisure operators face challenging times and changing business models, due to increased online shopping and the coronavirus pandemic. The likely downturn in retail value was understood at the outset as the wider retail landscape was changing.
The decision to purchase the centres gave the council full control so they could improve and manage the future Shrewsbury retail experience. If the centres had remained in their previous ownership, it is very likely that they would have seen no investment and that their reputation, particularly for the Darwin Centre, and the town as a visitor/retail destination, would have suffered. The council is investing in the centres through economic regeneration to create a better place for businesses, communities and visitors to live, enjoy and experience.
The council’s investment in the Darwin Centre was allocated at purchase and the centre is now the town’s premier covered shopping destination. The council has overseen significant investment in the Darwin Centre to improve its appeal to shoppers and businesses. This would not have happened if it was not in council ownership.
The major refurbishment of the middle level of the Darwin Centre, including new toilets, family room and Changing Places facility, was completed in October 2020, and a new shopping gallery for independent traders called The Collective opened in December 2020.
The council has delivered on its promise: the Darwin Centre’s footfall is approaching 2019 figures and is forecast to be 97% let (as opposed to 87% let in 2018). Its income has grown this year due in part to several recent and upcoming tenant relocations from Pride Hill including F Hinds, The Entertainer, Clarks and Lipstick & Gin.
The transformation of the Riverside site remains a priority. The council has always been clear on the intention to demolish this and to redevelop the site, which impacts its market value in the interim. The Riverside buildings were built in the 1960s and not fit for future sustainable retail or leisure use. The redevelopment is a key element of the Big Town Plan and the Strategic Development Framework (SDF) sets out a visionary framework for the four-hectare development site. A planning application has now been lodged to demolish the Riverside Medical Practice which heralds the next stage in the journey for the Riverside project.
The Pride Hill location is a key site for redevelopment and repurposing to bring new life to the town centre through the introduction of flexible space that could become home to a variety of mixed-use options uses including civic, community and commercial occupiers to complement the high street and our independent businesses. Council approval has been given to investigate the Pride Hill site as a potential option for a new civic hub to house Shropshire Council, and some of its public sector partners, once it moves from Shirehall, unlocking future redevelopment and repurposing of that site in due course.
The first phase of enabling works completed in May 2021 and the second phase will be announced shortly. The works carried out to date are aimed at reducing remaining operational costs together with preparation for the future redevelopment. At present there are only three retailers still using Pride Hill and we anticipate all shops to soon vacate the centre. This reduction in tenants was also always expected to further reduce its valuation until work to transform it into its future use is complete. To allow for the redevelopment all tenants were offered the opportunity to relocate to the Darwin Centre. From the outset the centre’s management team had several conversations with all tenants about a relocation option on attractive and flexible terms.
Shropshire Council and its partners are responsible for real, visible change in Shrewsbury, which the entire county will benefit from, attracting more business and visitors. All shopping centres across the country are experiencing significant drops in value at present due to the structural changes in shopping habits, and there are challenging times ahead but the original vision and strategy are unchanged; to deliver a vibrant, sustainable, and commercially successful town centre that people want to live, work, play, visit and enjoy themselves in.