REPURPOSING RETAIL: ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL
Posted by Estates Gazette on 14th Dec 2019
While shopping has historically been at the heart of our
town centres’ vitality, we are all now acutely aware that the seismic structural
shifts in retail and the consequent oversupply of floorspace in many town
centres is creating the core challenge for our industry: how can town centres
evolve and remain relevant to the communities they serve?
One experience tells us that one size does not fit all as
the starting point when grappling with the retail repurposing challenge. In
fact, being able to curate bespoke solutions relevant to a specific town centre
is key. The range of alternative uses/amenities that could transform a town
centre are many and varied, although often people initially default to residential
as being the principal solution.
Our industry is moving steadily towards data-driven
solutions, and at Ellandi we are at the forefront of this approach, placing insight
at the heart of our repurposing strategies. Insight is about developing a deep,
strong understanding of place through data analysis, expertise and stakeholder
In the Marlands shopping centre in Southampton, Hampshire,
we wrestled with the thorny challenge of how to re-let a vacant 13,000 sq. ft
space on the second floor that was once part of a department store.
By engaging with the local authority, we identified the need
for high-quality co-working innovation hub in the heart of the city centre.
Southampton is home to two major universities, and one of the council’s
important aims was to retain that pool of highly skilled graduates within the
We were able to structure an agreement whereby Ellandi
invested in enabling works, Southampton City Council signed a lease, while
investing around £1.5m in fitting out the premises. The Barclays Eagle Labs
team now manage the space on behalf of the council.
This has resulted in high-quality, flexible workspace that
is a creative hub for young, bright entrepreneurs to share ideas and learn
business skills in a central city location close to public transport.
The Network Hub offers the opportunity to connect with like
minded entrepreneurs, local organisations, universities, industry bodies and
potential clients and investors. These resources provide more opportunities for
Southampton start-ups and scale-ups to grown, in turn strengthening the city’s
established position in the digital sector.
City centre locations can and should be used creatively to
become new hubs for the communities they serve. The work “partnership” is often
over-used, but this repurposing initiative was a genuinely successful three-way
Leisure uses in their many guises can also be successfully deployed
to repurpose retail spaces. In the same shopping centre we have recently
completed a 12,000 sq. ft letting at first-floor level to a new children’s play
We identified the need for more community facilities of this
nature in the city centre and we were able to work closely with an excellent
operator to deliver the idea on sensible commercial terms.
Retail will always have an important role to play at the
heart of our town centres, but the purpose and function of that space is
evolving and needs to. An approach based on creativity, collaboration with the
public sector and all key local stakeholders and being open/flexible to new
ideas are all part of the equation in identifying successful retail repurposing