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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Changing Lanes

INVESTMENT to increase capacity at Carlisle’s Lanes shopping centre is on the cards following a change of ownership. It emerged last summer that Aviva Investors had agreed to sell the 465,000sq ft complex to the real estate manager F&C REIT for £65m.

The deal was completed just before Christmas.

David Jackson, commercial manager of The Lanes, said: “It’s a new owner and they’re going to have new ideas.

“We are hoping there will be some investment.

“We know we have demand for space beyond what we can satisfy. Some of it is from existing stores who would like much more space than they have.”

Mr Jackson does not expect F&C REIT to embark on a major new build, along the lines of the extension completed in 2000 that incorporated Debenhams.

He added: “It’s about how we make more of what we have, to see if we can manage the space better.”

The Lanes, which opened in 1984, was built by Carlisle City Council in partnership with insurance giant General Accident, which put up most of the £17m development costs in return for a 250-year lease.

General Accident was taken over by Norwich Union, which later changed its name to Aviva.

Rental income is shared between the council and its partner. The latter receives around £4.88m a year.

One retailer thought to be looking at Carlisle is the discount fashion chain Primark.

However, no units meeting its requirements – a prime location with at least 40,000sq ft of retail floorspace over a maximum of two floors – has become available.

Primark is almost certainly not interested in the former Hoopers department store in Castle Street, which closed in March for the second time.

The store first shut last August only to re-open as a discount designer outlet in October after talks to sell the building to Edinburgh Woollen Mill broke down.

However, Hoopers says it is not viable even in the new format.

The 42,000sq ft building has been for sale since the autumn with a £2m price tag.

Agent Storeys Edward Symmons says there has been interest from a “variety of people” including occupiers, investors and developers, not necessarily for retail use.

It now says it will consider subdividing the building and renting all or part of it as an alternative to a sale.

Edinburgh Woollen Mill chairman Philip Day wanted to reinvent it as a destination shopping centre with a high-quality restaurant. He is not ruling out another move for the premises.

Steve Simpson, group commercial director at Edinburgh Woollen Mill, said: “We would still very much like to buy the building. The door is still open.”

Hoopers is the latest in a series of Carlisle stores to close in recent months. Casualties have included Comet, Jessops, Toys ’R’ Us, Famous Names and the Botchergate branch of Greggs.

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