AS the first anniversary of North East Lincolnshire Council’s ownership of Freshney Place approaches, there’s good news for the shopping centre in a number of key areas.
A report being presented to a special Freshney Place Cabinet meeting at the Town Hall next week reveals how, between the council’s purchase on August 4 2022 and this June, the centre has/is:
- Increased occupancy rates (the number of units let) from 77.3 per cent to 85.3 per cent. There are 87 retail units in total (excluding the vacant redevelopment units).
- In the final stages of agreeing terms to bring in a new tenant, which will increase occupancy levels to more than 90 per cent (excluding the vacant redevelopment units);
- Entered talks to develop a CDC, (Community Diagnostics Centre). If that is finalised in line with expectations occupancy along Baxtergate will hit 95.7 per cent. Being developed across the country, CDCs provide walk-in centres for people to be cared for nearer their homes, without the need to go to hospital.
- Ensured 17 existing tenants have either been successfully relocated to allow the new Market Hall & Leisure Scheme to start, or have agreed to invest in new fit-outs.
- Seen footfall in the centre for 2022 grow to over 6.5m, which is more than 20 per cent higher than 2021. It continues to grow strongly this year improve this year. Whilst these figures do remain below pre-COVID visits, this is now above other centres across the country in terms for growth. The last three months has seen the centre beat national trends.
- Planning for the start of the Market Hall & Leisure Scheme is now at an advanced stage.
- The soft strip-out of the old BHS building has now started – the home of the new market.
- Parkway Entertainment Ltd are now officially secured as operators of the new cinema that will be developed as part of the new multi-million-pound leisure offer.
Council Leader, Cllr Philip Jackson, said: “The decision for us to buy Freshney Place last year was a bold one, but one that had to happen. This centre supports 1,700 jobs, the majority local, and is the heartbeat of our town centre – we had to secure its future, in order to attract a whole range of retail and leisure units, as well as community facilities such as the CDC.
“We are now on the way to regenerating not just the centre but its surrounding area, and I take this opportunity to thank all those who support our town centre – our retailers, market traders, business owners and residents and customers. Together we can make our town a stronger and better place.”
The ‘snapshot’ report, put together by Asset Managers Queensberry Real Estate and Property Managers Montagu Evans, did not hide from some of the challenges that may be presented in the future, including footfall during the construction of the Leisure & Market Hall Scheme.
It also highlighted how the old House of Fraser building is privately owned as are the units occupied by Next and M&S. However, work is underway through a separate project to work with the landlords of these buildings to maintain and where necessary improve their appearance.
“There’s lots of work going on in the town centre now,” continued Cllr Jackson. “The scheme at Riverhead is well underway, and you can see the progress now some of the hard hoardings have been removed. And before long, the work on the OnSide project will be on the ground too, delivering a new space for young people.
“We know that there will be disruption along the way, but with various schemes between Towns Fund, Levelling Up Funds and the A180 bridges project, we’ve a lot to deliver in the coming few years.”
- Further good news for Freshney Place came when its team heard of success in the 2022 Green Apple environmental awards. The centre scooped the International silver award for sustainability and a Green Apple World Ambassador award.