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Westfield site sell-off sees increased optimism for progress
If construction of the £260 million retail mall does begin then, it should be ready to open by Christmas 2015.
Westfield confirmed last year that it would take around 18 months to build and that opening would be timed for either of the peak shopping periods of Christmas or Easter.
The expected start date emerged as it was confirmed that the site is being sold by Australian developer Westfield to a specialist real estate investment management firm, London-based Meyer Bergman, as reported in the T&A last week.
The sale price has not been confirmed, but is understood to be around £200 million. The value of Meyer Bergman's transactions average between £25 million and £250 million.
Crucially, the sale includes agreements by Westfield to develop the 550,000 sq ft Bradford city centre shopping centre, which was mothballed in 2008 after the financial crash.
Confirmation of the deal came a day after news that the proposed £35 million City Growth Centre Zone will start on November 1 and bring in a rate- relief scheme to attract new and growing businesses.
The strategy, jointly funded by the Government and Bradford Council, is aimed at creating 2,800 jobs, 2,500 of which would come through the Westfield development.
Meyer Bergman said it was buying the Bradford site in association with two major Canadian pension funds, Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan Trust Fund and another co-investor in Meyer Bergman’s second fund, Meyer Bergman European Retail Partners Fund II (‘mberp II’).
Westfield and Meyer Bergman said the deal was subject to the start of the Bradford development, which is expected to be in the second half of 2013.
Meyer Bergman will become the owner of the site and will appoint Westfield to develop, design, construct and lease the new shopping centre.
Westfield will also be appointed as property manager for the centre once it is completed.
The Westfield Bradford development will include more than 70 shops and places to eat. Anchor stores will be Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and Next, which will occupy 35.6 per cent of the area.
Duncan Bower, Westfield director of development, said: “The agreements with Meyer Bergman are a significant step forward for the development of the shopping centre for the city of Bradford.
“Westfield has remained committed to progressing the Bradford scheme through difficult global economic times.
“In the past 12 months, Westfield has secured revised planning permission to ensure the scheme is more complimentary to the city centre, completed the anchor store negotiations with the signing of Marks & Spencer, extended the lease agreement with Debenhams to create an additional third sales level and confirmed that Next intends to open its second Bradford store.
“There is increasing momentum behind this project and strong retail interest from a range of major stores and specialty shops, given the relatively untapped retail market in Bradford city centre.”
George Walsh Waring, of Meyer Bergman, said: “Bradford’s city centre has been without an adequate retail offer for over 20 years, so we are excited to be able to deliver, alongside Westfield and our co-investment partners, a prime shopping centre right in the heart of the city that will completely transform its retail offering.
“We are confident that the Westfield Broadway centre will continue the rejuvenation of the city’s civic centre and provide a tangible stimulus to the local economy and jobs market.”
Councillor Dave Green, Leader of Bradford Council, said: “The Westfield and Meyer Bergman announcement is good news for Bradford. This is a clear signal of investor confidence.”
In announcing the new deal, Westfield and Meyer Bergman said: “Bradford represents a compelling retail opportunity as a city that has not offered retailers or consumers a good quality modern retail solution in over 20 years.
“Moreover, with a catchment area of 1.4 million potential shoppers, it is the largest retail market in the United Kingdom without a department store."