Chester Northgate Starts on Site

Supported by RivingtonHark, Cheshire West and Chester Council has entered into the build contract to deliver phase 1 of Chester Northgate and construction has commenced.

After decades of failed attempts the Northgate area of Chester city centre is about to be transformed into a major new destination incorporating a new Pitcurehouse cinema, new bars and restaurants, a world class market, new parking facilities, all stitched together by high quality public realm and spaces.  This £70million project must be one of the only major projects to get underway during the current pandemic and will open its doors in early 2022, playing a significant role in helping the city recover from the current health and subsequent economic crisis.

David Lewis has led this scheme since appointment in mid 2014, successfully navigating a CPO & TRO public inquiry and dealing with the numerous challenges endured along the way, not least the seismic shift in retailing in the UK.

“Non Essential” Retailers Return

RivingtonHark welcomes back over 60% of its Retailers

It is almost 3 months since the Government lockdown forced “non essential” retailers to close their stores. From the 15th June they were allowed to open again and RivingtonHark welcomed back over 60% of our retail tenants who chose to reopen at the earliest opportunity with many more opening over the next two weeks. Unfortunately, we have to wait a little longer for our leisure and F&B tenants to reopen as the Government restrictions on these occupiers is not relaxed until 4th July.

All of our schemes have been open since 23rd March supporting the communities they serve and each centre management team has worked exceptionally hard over the lockdown period ensuring that all those “essential” retailers still trading and those shoppers visiting them were able to do so in a safe and clean environment. We have been planning for the wider reopening of our centres throughout this period and put in place bespoke measures at each scheme to accommodate social distancing and cleaning regimes that will help keep safe, and give confidence to, our returning shoppers, retailers and centre staff.

Mark Harvey, Director of Asset Management commented: “We have been looking forward to welcoming back tenants and shoppers and, although it has been difficult to know how consumer behaviour will have been affected by the lockdown, our plans are flexible and can deal with different scenarios.  We have worked hand in glove with all our Stakeholders and critically all our Local Authorities.  So, whether shoppers are keen to get out of the house and head for the shops, or react more cautiously, our centres are ready, willing and successfully coping.”

Work Continues on Swansea Central

Here's Swansea's new area - as you've never seen it!

Despite the challenges faced by COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown, work has continued on Swansea Central.

The steel framework of the 3,500-capacity arena and the rest of the Swansea Central Phase One scheme continues to progress well.

The arena’s shape is clear to see as are the areas that will become the stage, auditorium and some terraced rows of seating.

Our main contractors Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd are working to rigorous safety and social distancing guidelines laid down by government and industry bodies and continue to achieve great results.

A selection of images from on-site can be found below.

Green wall at Liverpool St. Johns

Unique 'Living Green Wall' installed at Liverpool's St John's Shopping Centre

RivingtonHark are proud to be hosting one of the longest green walls in the UK that helps make Liverpool City Centre greener and more environmentally sustainable.

Liverpool has just become cleaner and greener thanks to the installation of a ‘living green wall’ on the exterior of St Johns Shopping Centre.

Spanning 65 metres in length, the living green wall is one of the longest in the UK and has been installed as part of a project which seeks to increase green space in urban areas, improve air quality and support health and wellbeing.

The project is being led by The Mersey Forest and is funded through the EU Horizon 2020 project Urban GreenUP. The installation, filled with over 14,000 evergreen plants, encourages bees and other pollinators, whilst making the city centre greener and more environmentally sustainable.

Green wall at Liverpool St. Johns

The installation of the Green Wall has gained significant media coverage. The full article on Liverpool Express can be found here

‘Like water, free markets are quick to find their level and adjust accordingly. But we don’t operate in a free market’

As we ease out of lockdown, Mark Williams (Director of RivingtonHark) gives his latest view in the Estate Gazette on the effects of COVID-19 on the retail sector and the importance of eradicating outdated legislation.

Like a plague of locusts, Covid-19 has created human and economic carnage on a scale even Moses would have struggled to imagine. Its consequences are far reaching. How we work, rest, play and shop has changed, and quickly. Trends that may have taken five or 10 years to work through have happened in five months. For perfectly sensible and obvious reasons, real estate is not a sector best known for its ability to adapt quickly. Both owners and occupiers are struggling to understand what this “new normal” means for their business model.

What is clear is that the occupiers we and others speak to require greater flexibility, as well as cost structures that better suit their emerging business model. Retail and leisure is at the heart of this shift, but offices also face a potential tsunami of change as well. To meet these challenges many good suggestions have been made; and some less so.

As EG research has shown, the “owner” is typically the public, not some form of modern-day Rachman, as some would paint.

But of the more constructive ideas, typical among them have been the suggestion of wider use of turnover leases; profit-sharing models; fixed and flexible rents; shorter leases and no upward only rent reviews. I have yet to hear a tenant say they their first choice of rental deal is to be linked to whatever someone adjacent to them is going to pay. They couldn’t give two hoots what a different business can afford; it’s their business they are focused on.

Owners, on the other hand, need to understand their forward-looking cash flow, as do the banks and valuers who support it. Flexibility does bring uncertainty, but inevitably that gets reflected in the price.

So with the provision of information to understand the business model of the occupier, it is perfectly possible to strike deals that meet both sides’ objectives. And if we do have all this space that needs repurposing (and we do), then shorter leases should allow for regeneration to happen, and happen quickly.

Outdated legislation

Like water, free markets are quick to find their level and adjust accordingly. But we don’t operate in a free market. Legislation written before most of us were born, and for reasons long lost in the mist of time, tie owners’ hands.

The very freedom to strike deals that have nothing to do with what an adjacent business can pay is hampered. The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 gives occupiers a choice. They can negotiate a renewal with the owner or, failing that, can also run the argument of comparison rents. One that supports an army of consultants, takes time and is costly.

So in seeking to give occupiers the flexibility they want, an owner then faces a renewal with an occupier who can fall back on the comparison method; and then walk if they don’t like it. Then, if the owner wants to regenerate, they face a lengthy legal process and compensation that often exceeds the total rent ever paid due to the absurdity of the rates system.

So, in all the rhetoric spoken by some occupiers pushing for more flexibility, let’s also hear them speak up about removing the very block that prevents this.

If as an industry we really are to change quickly and give occupiers what they want, we need to scrap outdated legislation. Like Covid-19, let’s give it a deep clean and eradicate it.

Mark Williams

Executive Director

Forbes writes about the transformation of Newcastle City Centre

RivingtonLand (part of RivingtonHark) works for Newcastle City Council on the transformation programme for the city centre.

The detailed analysis and planning of how to bring the city back to life in a safe way and in a world of social distancing is inspiring. Some of the required short term changes may also be great long term initiatives as the article below illustrates.

Read the full article here

Cheshire West and Cheshire Council appoint Vinci as main contractor for major development

Chester Northgate - exciting news that will give the city and local economy a major boost.

RivingtonLand’s (part of RivingtonHark group) client Cheshire West and Chester Council last week reaffirmed its commitment to the project and the decision to appoint Vinci as the main contractor for this major development.

This mixed use scheme will play a major role in the post Covid-19 recovery of the city and is arguably more important now than ever. Given the significant effort it has taken to get to this position and the various trials and tribulations along the journey it will be amazing to see the hoardings go up and the diggers arrive.

RivingtonHark are looking forward to the opening and hopefully by then we will have all been vaccinated and it can be a real celebration!


We are Hiring!

With the continued exciting growth of the business we are now seeking to add an Asset Manager to the team

RivingtonHark is one of the UK’s leading investment, asset management and development management businesses focused on the transformation of retail assets and town centres. The role will suit a recently qualified surveyor who is keen to join a forward looking business involved in changing retail centres into vibrant places for people to visit, shop, work and live that are relevant to the catchment and market they serve.

With the continuing evolution of the retail market many retail centres are no longer fit for purpose and need an element of, or wholesale, repurposing or repositioning. We are looking for an energetic, dynamic individual who is commercially aware, enthusiastic, quick to learn and will challenge traditional retail property norms to assist with running our assets, identifying and implementing the changes needed. Supporting a lead Director on various assets the asset manager will work within an innovative and experienced industry leading team in a fast changing market. You will be given the opportunity to take on responsibility and have direct contact with investors.

If you want to be part of a growing business, sharing in its success, and make a meaningful impact on retail and town centres in the UK and think this is a role for you please see the Careers page.

View job details

RivingtonHark were interviewed on Newsnight on the regeneration of our cities post lockdown

RivingtonHark were interviewed on Newsnight on the regeneration of our cities post lockdown.

On the 29th April BBC Newsnight examined how different our cities and spending will look as we head into what could be the biggest recession the world has known. Presented by Emily maitlis and Helen Thomas, our very own Mark Williams was asked for his views, alongside Alex Baldock CEO of Dixons Carphone.  Planning for the safe, but economically needed, relaunch of our town centres once we move out of  lockdown is critical and one that RivingtonHark have plans in place for all our projects. Equally Mark discussed the importance of  strategic planning for what regeneration is required. The Virus has simply accelerated the need for change and  RivingtonHark continue to work closely with our Local Authority and private sector partners on this. Bottom line is collaboration is needed more than ever

Damned if you do; Damned if you don't. We need our Local Authorities like never before.

Mark Williams (Director of RivingtonHark) gives his view on the importance of Local Authority involvement

The Sunday Times well regarded Retail and Property Correspondent, Sam Chambers has shone the spotlight on Local Authority involvement in buying property. Parliament is also now being asked to investigate.

This  is a complex subject where Local Authorities are short of resource and are under pressure to help rejuvenate their town centres. Judicial use of low cost and long term borrowing has been used by many to help. This work has come under fire though by so called “leading property agents”, who have criticized Local Authorities  without being prepared to put their name to their case. I was  quoted in The Sunday Times robustly defending the professionalism and skill (in my colourful language) of the people who work at Local Authorities. This support is not new

7 years ago I was honoured to Chair the Governments Retail Property Taskforce. I was superbly aided by senior representatives from the BPF; BRC; RICS; IPF; LGA; Real Estate Lending Forum; Association of Property Lenders; Booksellers Association and of course Revo. Additionally people from Javelin; Legal and General; Next; Gloucester LEP; RBS; Aberdeen Standard and GL Hearn. We also commissioned detailed research from Colliers. Finally we had observers (but very helpful) from 3 government departments including the Treasury.

Our report , titled “Beyond Retail”  was submitted to the Government (free email copies happily on request ). It is unique not only because of the Public/ Private partnership formation of the Taskforce,  but also due to the unanimous recommendations made.

Of the total of 20 recommendations made, virtually all have been acted upon (Business Rates still outstanding). Chief among these was the call for more resource to help Local Authorities tackle their town centres, and encouraging them to intervene (invest/ rejuvenate) where the private sector were unable to. That Local Authorities are now doing this should be supported.

True, we never forecast the current global pandemic, or the huge human and economic cost it is causing. Had we that foresight it would have simply strengthen those recommendations 10 fold. Without doubt this is causing short term cash flow issues for all, but Local Authority who have made a 40 year investment decisions are better placed than many to ride this through.

So here’s to supporting our Local Authorities who we are going to need more than ever to help, both in the continued front line work they are doing now, but also in helping us rebuild our local economies when we move out of our lockdown.

Mark Williams

Executive Director