The retail in Maidenhead’s new Nicholson Quarter will be key to the whole scheme’s success according to its developer.
Will Robinson, development director for Areli Real Estate, told guest at TVPropFest on October 7, creating communities and spaces where people want to be is important to the scheme.
Speaking in the panel debate, Re-shaping the Valley’, he said: “I’ve worked in town centre regeneration for 25 years and have been involved in a number of town centre schemes, which I think are now, historically, called clone towns.
“So that is lining up the H&Ms, the Nexts the Swarovskis. At the Nicholson Quarter we are absolutely determined that the driver is the ground floor.
“The upstairs creates the community, the place, the senior living, the office which is really important, but the ground floor, the connection into the town is something that is going to make Maidenhead a sustainable town centre for the future and key to that is creating a place where people want to be.
“We talk about spaces, squares, streets, linkages, but it’s about small retail units which are distinctive. So very much the butcher, the baker, the food offer, so it’s creating space where people want to go and spend time.
“If you want something now, you go online. Whether we love it or hate it, we all do it. So for town centres to be successful going forward, they have to be distinctive.”
He said it is essential the units are affordable with deals like turnover-based rents and flexible leases. The Thames Valley, he said, is a great location which offers great opportunities.
He went on: “It’s quicker to get into central London than from Wimbledon. There’s a great workforce and great demographic in terms of affluence, so there’s a real opportunity to create something distinctive and frankly it will be a blueprint for town centres going forward.
“It’s about having the courage of our convictions in terms of the type of offer that’s going to be created. It’s not about taking any tenant, it’s about getting the best tenants that we can and having a tenant mix and sticking to it. It’s better to have an unit empty than one with the wrong tenant in it.”
He said Areli is in it for the long term although additional investment will be required for the scheme.
Speakers were asked if the Thames Valley had hibernated during lockdown. Barton Willmore partner Kim Cohen said the pragmatism that came with the Covid response included a number of positive changes she hoped could be retained.
Thames Valley Berkshire LEP chief executive Alison Webster pointed to the LEP’s plan to publish the second edition of the Berkshire Prospectus.
She added: “It’s the opportunity to showcase to Government, and showcase to the world what the ambition is in Berkshire.”
Image shows Andy Jansons (left) and Mr Robinson.
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