The Shard

Bonfire of the Mediocres

RivingtonHark Executive Director Mark Williams was quoted in the recent React News article 'Hammerson's profit: turning point or false dawn for retail?'.

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Local Anticipation Builds for Chester Northgate

Children from local schools have recently buried 3-time capsules in the new public square ahead of its completion and local traders continue to demonstrate their excitement about the new market with more operators signing up, leaving only limited available pitches.

Meanwhile the first operator has opened its doors to the public, Cosy Club, and Picturehouse and the Florist are well on with their fit outs ahead of opening in the Autumn.

Read the full article here

Rob Hadfield

RivingtonHark appoints Rob Hadfield as Director as expansion fuels continued Placemaking focus

Playing a key role in the enhancement of both private and public sector assets Rob will draw on his extensive retail and placemaking experience to ensure the RivingtonHark asset portfolio suits occupier and customer needs.

As the portfolio continues to grow Rob will be instrumental in devising and executing key client strategies.

Rob was most recently Commercial Director and part of the Leadership team at Capital & Regional for 3 years where he led the Commercial team focusing on enhancing the income generation across the Community shopping centre portfolio. As part of this he worked closely with a variety of occupiers to create more diversified income streams which included the first UK shopping centre letting to an NHS Community Diagnostic Centre.

Rob brings over 20 years of experience working for occupiers from his time at Debenhams where he was Group Property Director for 9 years with responsibility for all real estate matters across the UK, Denmark & Ireland. Prior to this, he held roles at Costa Coffee & Flight Centre where he led the Acquisitions team/partnerships and Property teams respectively. Rob is also a member of the REVO Strategic Board.

Mark Harvey, Executive Director at RivingtonHark said ‘We are delighted Rob has joined at a pivotal point in the growth of the business. His commercial acumen, retailer insight and occupier engagement will add complementary skills and experience to the wider RivingtonHark team and play a significant part in our asset and placemaking strategies going forward.

Rob Hadfield, Director, added: “I am thrilled to join RivingtonHark at a hugely exciting time for the business. I can’t wait to work with the team to identify and deliver those creative solutions that enhance value and deliver what local communities need and desire to make them sustainable places for the long term.”

React News Q&A: Victoria Leeds

This article appeared in React News on 9 March 2022. View the original article here.

React News spoke to RivingtonHark, strategic advisor behind Redical's £120m Victoria Leeds purchase, on the right time to buy and regenerating UK towns.

When newly launched investor Redical made the £21m purchase of Clayton Square Shopping Centre in Liverpool last September, its first in the UK shopping centre market, the company made it clear the deal would be the first of many. RivingtonHark was appointed as strategic advisor, to field opportunities and help Redical build a portfolio of UK centres on a buy-and-hold basis. Few expected the duo’s second purchase after the £21m Clayton Square to be the £120m Victoria centres in Leeds, a shopping district which is one of the North’s premier retail destinations. The sale included the 200,000 sq ft Victoria Quarter shopping gallery, bought by Hammerson for £136m in 2012, and the neighbouring 400,000 sq ft Victoria Gate shopping centre, built for £164m in 2016.

React News spoke to RivingtonHark’s executive director Mark Williams on buying at the right point in the cycle, plans for the Victoria centres, and regenerating town centres across the UK.

What drew RivingtonHark and Redical to buy the £120m Victoria centres?

It’s really an estate. It’s two arcades under the banner of Victoria Arcade. Anchored by Harvey Nichols, with Louis Vuitton, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, as well as The Ivy Asia about to open. And then we have Victoria Gate which Hammerson built alongside. The build quality of that is stunning. It is the best architectural quality shopping centre in the UK bar none. The brickwork on the outside fronting the market is unbelievable. There was no expense spared to make it brilliant.

For us, it’s about evolving it. It is a quality destination. It’s like the London estates, if you think of Marylebone High Street, Burlington Arcade, parts of the Kings Road. It’s not a shopping centre in a traditional sense.

What changes are you planning to make?

We are definitely going to be focusing on improving the quality. We’re going to bring in more food and beverage. So Ivy Asia will be the first to open, and we’ll then be looking at potentially a bit more leisure that links to that. We’ve got a meeting with all the occupiers later this month to hear their views, both local and national, to show that we are not coming there with fixed views. We’ve got a big marketing spend. We want to make sure that what we do is directed at your customers, it has an impact on you. Right now we’re on listen mode. But we’re going to invest, we’re going to improve. And then we have the Wrays Building, which is a listed building connecting the two and there’s a public area. We’ve got meetings with the council to talk about how we can improve the external space, which is theirs, not ours, and how we can animate the buildings so that people can go around and feel comfortable.

“It’s not about knocking down anything. We’ve bought it at a point in the economic cycle where we can afford to improve and invest”

It’s not about knocking down anything. We’ve bought it at a point in the economic cycle where we can afford to improve and invest because the price we’ve paid is throwing off a reasonable yield. The beauty of a corporate purchase is that the yield as I’ve seen quoted versus the yield we are getting, there’s quite a big difference as in corporate transactions you have fewer costs and completion accounts. So we are well into the eights on the yield we’re getting. It’s a good deal and we’re going to hold it long term.

When Hammerson’s £160m Victoria Gate opened in 2016 it was hailed as architecturally world leading and was anchored by the largest John Lewis outside London.

What other parts of the market does RivingtonHark focus on alongside the partnership with Redical?

I’m going to say we’re unique, though that’s always quite a dangerous thing to say. Roughly half our business is as consultants to the public sector. We are building over £200m of construction onsite as we speak. Swansea Arena opens at Copr Bay later this week. Chester Northgate opens later this year, with a new market hall, cinema, and more. So we do a lot for the public sector. We then also have the value add strategy, which owns St John’s Shopping Centre in Liverpool with AnaCap, where we also co-invest, and then we have our work with Redical where we are the strategic advisors. We’ve basically been working with them to devise, identify and execute a strategy for investments. We do the whole spectrum from knocking down development through to repurposing of existing assets, both for the public sector and for the private sector. The key to all of this is that we work hand in glove with all stakeholders because we understand how local authorities think and work, and therefore we have no disputes with any local authority. We work collaboratively with them. We are helping create and improve their places.

“We work hand in glove with all stakeholders because we understand how local authorities think and work”

Let’s talk about your role with Redical and the ambitions of the partnership to not just stop at the Victoria centres?

We were chosen as their strategic advisors because our geeky subject is UK retail town and city centres. That’s what my business knows intimately. We might be boring at a dinner party, but that is our chosen subject. We have the investment, development, asset management, placemaking skills, so we can look at it in a very holistic way. We are very cautious and we are very focused on the downside, always asking what can go wrong – what are the risks? The upside will take care of itself. Because in everything, something will always go wrong with a project.

We are entirely focused on being cautious and being risk-adjusted in our judgements. Right now, most pension funds don’t want to invest in direct property because they don’t want to have the management hassle around rents. If we can underwrite, we are capable of doing the heavy lifting, the asset management, the running of it. And that then offers the investors a stabilised return on a long term basis, which on a risk-adjusted basis offers good value.

It’s a sector that most funds are running a mile away from, but we think there’s an opportunity there.

Redical advised by RivingtonHark bought Liverpool’s Clayton Square for £21m in September

Clayton Square

What sort of portfolio would you look to build with Redical?

We’re selective. So if we had the opportunity to buy at today’s market pricing four or five assets that fit the criteria, we’d do it. We have the capacity to do it. We’ve about to announce next week a further recruit. So we’ve resourced up and the ambition is to do that. Now, of course you don’t get four or five perfect things landing like that. So you have to be patient, and we have been patient. But if there are opportunities that arise, we will go and investigate and look at them. If they fit the criteria, then we’ll bid for them. And if they don’t, we won’t.

What was the thinking behind the Leeds acquisition?

We’ve been working with Redical for over 12 months, trawling every town, every city, every asset. Working out whether is it a yes, a no, or a maybe. Can we add value to it? Are the fundamentals right? We’ve looked at assets where we formed the view that people are only going to that town centre to work in either local authority offices or to shop. Now there’s a risk that with the internet, people won’t carry on shopping to that extent. I don’t know if that will happen or not, but that’s a risk and a risk that we won’t take with this fund. Whereas Leeds, people work in Leeds, people live in Leeds. More people are coming to Leeds, for tourism, or students. Then they also shop, so it’s an add-on.

RivingtonHark is also advising Cheshire West & Chester Council on Chester’s Northgate.

Does your focus on adding value tie into the locations you go for, such as Chester, Liverpool, Leeds, Swansea and beyond, especially with your council advisory hat on?

Yes. There’s a limit to what you can do. In our world, we are rooted in real estate. So we get involved in places where our activity can make a deference. There is no point in us getting involved in a place where there are factors of such a scale that’s actually what’s happening in the town centre is irrelevant. Underlying everything we do it is a belief that human behaviour and humans’ attitude to life is improved, is better, if they think the environment they’re working in, they’re living in, they’re visiting is nice. People in Newcastle, what they want is very different to what somebody in Leeds would want or somebody in Liverpool. They want their place to look like it is, they’re proud of their heritage. So it’s respecting the heritage, but it’s making sure those places are enjoyable.

What sort of work has needed to be done in some of those locations to deliver regeneration?

In Swansea the damage was done over 75 years ago. Basically the bombing of Swansea and the rebuilding in the sixties created a concrete mess. And the council have been trying to get the private sector to change that for over 30 years. We’ve actually delivered change, which the private sector failed to do for so long.

“We are entirely focused on being cautious and being risk adjusted in our judgements”

Chester’s totally different. Chester had a horrible shopping centre that wasn’t contributing. So we are improving listed buildings and adding uses. And then Newcastle it’s about curating all the streets. We’re not touching a physical inside of a building. There’s a pedestrianisation, an improvement of the side streets that go to the universities to make the connection better. Everything we do is made so that the customer, when they go round, they go, “I think this is better.” In Liverpool, we’ve got two great assets that are right at the heart of the city centre. We worked with a local authority over the partial pedestrianisation, tree planting. We’ve put in a massive green wall. St John’s is 55 years old, it is a concrete 1960s shopping centre. But we have made it greener, more sustainable. It’s better and nicer, but I can’t change it into an award-winning 2020 building. But it’s a darn site better than it was 10 years ago.

RivingtonHark has co-invested with AnaCap to buy the 540,000 sq ft St John’s Shopping Centre in Liverpool.

St Johns Liverpool

You’ve also got the strategy with AnaCap, what else will you be looking to acquire as part of that?

With AnaCap, that’s a value-add strategy. Value add is arguably the hardest to fill because you can look at assets that are throwing o! a high yield and go this is great, I can buy in. But actually there’s a reason it’s a high yield, because the cash flow is haemorrhaging. Also on a value add, you have to find your exit. So buying an asset that actually you ask, in three years time who’s going to buy it? You can’t just think, well, somebody else like me. They’ll want a similar return. So you’ve got to factor the exit yield being roughly the same as the entry yield. It makes it hard and we’ve got to create value. We are looking at things, but we’re not about to announce anything right now.

What are the risks or potential thunder clouds in terms of the retail market at the moment? What do savvy investors and asset managers need to be aware of?

It is making sure that you think of the retailers. There’s a need for retail space where people continue shopping there because they want to shop there. I’ve said this before, it’s 2008/9, the mass use of the smartphone, which is what triggered it. Prior to that, if we wanted to go and buy things, we had to go to shops to do it. Since then, we go to shops if we want to go. So, that switch from “have to” to “want” encapsulates everything I’ve just been saying. Convenience locations will continue to function, because they’re convenient. They’re easy. They’re transport length or they’re local. They might look pretty grotty, but they’re convenient. They’ll carry on. Fashion is where it becomes risky because you’ve got locations where people will ask, why do I want to go into that town to shop for fashion? It’s not a nice town, that’s the only reason I’m going in there, and actually I can do that somewhere else that’s better. Those places I’d be very nervous about. Hence we like Leeds because people go to Leeds because it’s a great place to go. It’s a great day out.

Swansea Arena light columns

Dramatic colour changing lighting columns for Copr Bay Arena

Giant LED lighting columns equipped with technology to change colour will soon be pointing the way to Swansea Arena for thousands of residents and visitors to the city.

Six of the lighting columns have been installed – three outside the arena and three on the city centre side of the landmark new bridge crossing over Oystermouth Road.

The columns, which each stand 12 metres tall, are part of the city’s £135m Copr Bay phase one district being developed by Swansea Council, with Swansea Arena due to open its doors in March.

Also forming part of Copr Bay phase one is a 1.1-acre coastal park, new apartments, new car parking and spaces for leisure and hospitality businesses.

Worth £17.1m a year to Swansea’s economy, the scheme is being advised by development managers RivingtonHark. Construction is being led by Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd.

The council is also exploring the introduction of other sets of similar lighting columns elsewhere in the city centre to create a lighting trail.

Swansea Arena light columns

Cllr Rob Stewart, Swansea Council Leader, said: “The new lighting columns both sides of the new bridge over Oystermouth Road will generate even more landmarks in Swansea city centre as part of a scheme that will deliver world-class entertainment and leisure, helping raise our city’s profile throughout the UK and beyond.

“The combination of the new lighting columns and the lighting scheme at the bridge means Swansea is set for some spectacular sights in the coming months and years, with this scheme also generating employment and acting as a catalyst for further investment and economic growth.

“Given the on-going impact of the pandemic, progress on Copr Bay phase one has been remarkable as we head towards the arena opening its doors in March. Credit should go to all involved for their tireless work on this fantastic project.”

The arena element of Copr Bay phase one is part-funded by the Swansea Bay City Deal – an investment of up to £1.3bn in nine major programmes and projects across the Swansea Bay City Region.

The new bridge over Oystermouth Road is part-funded by the Welsh Government’s Active Travel fund.

CGI of the Copr Bay Arena

New fly-through video of the Copr Bay Arena

Kris Hunt

A stunning new digital fly-through video shows how the inside of Swansea Arena will look once it’s open.

Along with new artist’s impressions, the video highlights the design and architecture of the attraction which Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) will operate.

Swansea Arena is one feature of the £135 million Copr Bay phase one district being developed by Swansea Council and advised by development manager RivingtonHark. Other features include the Copr Bay bridge, a coastal park, apartments, business spaces and car parking.

A 3,500-capacity attraction, the arena will include:

  • A divisible auditorium to create separate spaces, with the upper level transforming into a conference space to complement banqueting facilities
  • A 175-capacity VIP lounge
  • Nine food and drink outlets

Complete with an LED façade, the arena will host performances across music, comedy, e-sports and conference events for an estimated 230,000 visitors a year.

Construction of Copr Bay phase one, being led by Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd, is on track for completion this autumn.

Cllr Robert Francis-Davies, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Investment and Tourism, said: “The Swansea Arena is going to be an iconic attraction at the heart of the city’s emerging new Copr Bay phase one district, with construction on track for completion in the autumn.

“Excitement is already starting to build with more and more visible progress on site every day, but this stunning new digital fly-through will help further raise anticipation throughout Swansea and beyond. It shows how the arena – once complete and operational – will be a world class facility that will give local people the opportunity to enjoy the very best entertainment, conferences and other events.

“Copr Bay phase one is also worth hundreds of jobs to local people, with the investment having sparked considerable private sector interest in our city. Schemes of this nature – in combination with many others – will transform Swansea into one of the UK’s best cities to live, work, study and visit. They also mean Swansea’s economy is in a strong position to quickly recover from the economic impact of the pandemic.”

The tech installed at Swansea Arena will ensure that the venue is equipped to host both real life and hybrid events, embracing the current trend for virtual attendance that will continue beyond the pandemic.

Lisa Mart, Swansea Arena General Manager, said: “We are a multi-purpose entertainment venue, so although the majority of our bookings are going to be music acts, we are also going to be having comedy, premium musical theatre, and things like e-sports, gaming and even wrestling because the flexibility of our venue means we can play things in the round.

“Swansea Arena is limitless in terms of all the things it can offer.”

The arena also forms part of the Swansea City and Waterfront Digital District project which is being part-funded by the Swansea Bay City Deal.

The Copr Bay bridge is being part-funded by the Welsh Government’s Active Travel fund.

Chester Northgate Newsletter - March 2020

Latest news from the Northgate project team

March 2020

Work begins on an exciting new market and leisure destination in the heart of Chester

After over 20 years of planning, delays and false starts, work begins in March to transform the Northwest of the city centre.

Chester Northgate is not a new shopping centre; instead it will provide a fantastic opportunity to build on the success of Storyhouse and provide a unique mix of leisure facilities including:

  • A new market and foodhall
  • Picturehouse – six screen cinema
  • Cafes, bars and restaurants
  • A new public square
  • Multi-storey car park with over 700 spaces

The development will integrate seamlessly with the surrounding parts of the city and is due to open late 2021. The old library frontage will be transformed into a new arcade and provide a stunning arched entrance into the development (see below), which will also be accessible from Hunter Street and Princess Street.

The scheme will provide a unique opportunity to create a new public square for the city, linking the new market hall, Storyhouse and the Town Hall. So thank you for your patience, please bear with us while we get on with the build.

In the meantime you can view a fly-through of the development and check our progress via our website.

Visit the website

Building new drainage for the city centre

In order to enable new developments such as Northgate, a new 1km drainage tunnel will need to be built, also starting in March, and will have a substantial impact on traffic using the inner ring road. This work will ensure Chester has far greater capacity for the drainage of surface water and will significantly reduce the risk of flooding or drain bursts, and raw sewage outfalls into the River Dee. Taking approximately one year to complete the project will ensure the city can cope with excess rainwater for the benefit of residents and businesses alike.

Environmental benefits

The new drain will result in many future-proof environmental protections and benefits.

We are working with Welsh Water to ensure that the drain meets water industry and environmental standards. The benefits will include:

  • Reducing instances of flooding and drain bursts in the city centre
  • Diverting rainwater away from the sewer network to reduce the volume of water requiring sewage treatment and reduce energy used as a result
  • Maximising the capacity of the existing sewer network
  • Providing a more efficient and sustainable rainwater drainage network for Chester
  • Reducing the risk of raw sewage discharges into the river when the current network is already at capacity.

A new rainwater drain for Chester

The new rainwater drainage tunnel will be a significant investment in the city centre’s future and is a necessary requirement ahead of forthcoming major developments and vastly improved city centre facilities.

The work will regrettably result in some disruption to traffic and to those visiting or working in Chester, but will enable major regeneration of the city centre for the benefit of residents and visitors for years to come. We believe any short-term disruption will be worth it in the long run.

Where will the drainage tunnel go?

It will run from Princess Street south along St. Martin’s Way, Nicholas Street, Grosvenor Road and Castle Drive, and will end with a new outfall into the river, see below.

How will the drain be built?

It will be almost 1km in length, 1.2m in diameter and require access shafts 5.5m wide and 7m deep. Over 85% of the new drain will be installed via tunnelling to minimise disruption above ground, but will require 10 access shafts along the route for the tunnelling equipment to operate between.

How will traffic be managed during the drain works?

Phase One: March – July 2020:
This will be to allow the contractor’s enabling works to be carried out and will impact southbound traffic along St. Martin’s Way and Nicholas Street; requiring lane closures and pavement restrictions, resulting in places where two lanes will be filtered into one; plus some occasional northbound lane closures.

Phase Two: July 2020 – May 2021:
During the full drain construction period, there will be further disruption on St. Martin’s Way and Nicholas Street, including new closures to southbound traffic from the Fountains Roundabout. This is essential to maintain public safety during tunnelling work. Full details of all diversions will be publicised in May.

Work starts on site at Swansea Central

We are proud to announce that construction of Swansea Central has started. Phase 1 of the £1 billion transformation of Swansea city centre is being delivered by Swansea City Council and developed by RivingtonHark.

Due for completion in mid-2021 it will be anchored by the multi-functional arena and conference centre, operated by the global leader in live theatre, The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG). The venue aims to stage 160 performances a year across comedy, theatre, live music and gaming, attracting over 230,000 visitors per year to the city and positioning Swansea as a desirable destination for both leisure and business.

In addition, phase one also includes a green wall, the 1.1-acre coastal park, providing attractive green spaces as well as facilities for outdoor events, a new hotel and 960 new parking spaces. Adjacent to Swansea’s picturesque Marina, the ‘Swansea Central’ scheme will take the next steps to connect the city to the spectacular beach with the help of a statement bridge for pedestrians and cyclists, which combines improved permeability with eye-catching design.

Phase two of the ‘Swansea Central’ transformation is also under-way with an update to the design feasibility being undertaken. It will include further new homes, new office space, retail and leisure along with more public realm improvements.

Spencer Winter, Projects Director of RivingtonHark, said: “More than ever, city centres need local authority intervention in order to thrive, and Swansea is a positive example of what can be achieved with a forward-thinking local council at the helm. ‘Swansea Central’ will not only be a destination for world-class entertainment, but also a new urban neighbourhood for people. It marries uncompromising architecture and design with facilities that will draw people and business into the city, supporting the city’s ambitions to be a leading business and leisure destination.”

Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council, commented: “The start on site of ‘Swansea Central’ marks a huge step in the major evolution of Swansea. From our spectacular beach and historical landmarks, to our world-leading universities and institutions, Swansea provides a wealth of opportunity that has been undervalued for too long. Alongside the other transformative projects taking place across the city, ‘Swansea Central’ is a missing piece of the jigsaw that will attract more people to the city centre, and greatly strengthen our economic buoyancy. The ‘Swansea Central’ phase one scheme alone is forecast to create over 2,500 new jobs throughout and beyond construction, of which 75 per cent are expected to be filled by local residents. Phase two will also see the creation of a large public sector hub, with the potential to create thousands more jobs in the city centre.”

The wider Swansea City Centre Regeneration Programme will bring further new housing into the city, as well as facilities for learning and business. The Swansea Bay City Deal will also part-fund a new commercial district, featuring a 100,000 sq ft innovation hub with incubation and co-working spaces for small businesses in the tech and creative industries, and a new ‘box village’ and innovation precinct due to be constructed at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David SA1. This will provide world class, flexible and affordable space for start-ups and students, supporting the retention of post-graduates in the city. Upon completion, these projects will collectively generate an additional £6.6 million household spend per year and £297 million GVA into the local economy.

Planning permission for ‘Swansea Central’ phase one was granted in October 2018; main works start onsite on 27 November 2019 with a planned completion of phase one in mid 2021.

Superbowl Opens at Castle Quarter

Approximately 500 people turned out for the VIP opening of Superbowl on 25 September at Castle Quarter, Norwich.

Queues formed down the mall as customers arrived to experience the new 14 lane ten pin bowling venue, a children’s soft play area known as Crazy Club and Sega gaming world. The owners of Superbowl remarked that was their best opening to date and it clearly generated a huge amount of interest and excitement within the City.

This will be Superbowls 11th venue nationwide and they predict that they will attract thousands of visitors to Castle Quarter.  Marketing and events coordinator, George Smith, said: “Superbowl UK Norwich brings our distinctive brand of family entertainment into the city. We will be modernising the customer experience with the latest audio and visual, including projector screens at the end of bowling lanes showing all of our latest offers.”

Robert Bradley, Castle Mall’s general manager, said: “The interest that Superbowl UK is generating is absolutely fantastic. Ever since the hoardings came down, people have been looking through the shutters and we’re expecting loads of people to come in and enjoy the Superbowl UK experience.”

This is an superb addition to Castle Quarter, building upon the success of Vue cinema and Pure Gym to create a true family leisure destination in the heart of Norwich.

New Branding Launched for Norwich Shopping Centre

A new name and brand identity has been launched for Castle Mall in Norwich, the scheme is now Castle Quarter.

The new name and logo replaced Castle Mall and is officially launched to the public this weekend. The name change reflects the transformations currently underway at the scheme, with an increased focus on being a more experiential destination offering food, cinema, a gym and bowling alley.

The new branding will launched by Love Island star, and Norwich local, Sam Bird with a host of free events and activities.

General manager for Castle Quarter, Robert Bradley said: “There will be so much happening: we can’t wait to welcome customers to the new look Castle Quarter. The party will be a great way to celebrate the launch and a fabulous fun event too. We’re really pleased Sam Bird will joining us and meeting plenty of his Norwich fans.”

The fun will include an inflatable Pacman maze, crazy golf, a silent disco, and a giant Tetris, which is a video puzzle game. There will also be a retro gaming challenge with a £500 prize up for grabs, a chance to win a £250 prize in the day out planner competition and a ‘Ballnado challenge’ – a twist on the popular Grab-A-Grand Cash Cube concept – with a £100 prize for the winner who collects the most balls.