Westfield has decided to sell it's interest in the 23 are site in the centre of Bradford which it abandoned in 2008, having begun the construction of a scheme which it calls Broadway for it's book value, believed to be around £200 million, but will complete the construction and will manage the completed development on behalf of Meyer Bergman, who will become the owner once development has restarted next year.
For Bradford Council, after a decade during which their city centre has been an eyesore, this is a promise of action next summer to fill the gaping 23 acre void in the city centre.
Meyer Bergman is a London-based investment manager and it will partner with the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan and another co-investor in Meyer Bergman's second fund, Meyer Bergman European Retail Partners Fund II, to own the freehold.
Meyer Bergman said Bradford represents a 'compelling' retail opportunity as a city that has not offered retailers or consumers a good quality modern retail solution in over 20 years. Moreover, with a catchment area of 1.4 million potential shoppers, it is the largest retail market in the UK without a department store.
The Broadway Centre will be anchored by Debenhams, Marks & Spencer and Next, which will occupy 35.6% of the project area of 550,000 sq ft. There will be over 70 shops and restaurants.
Councillor Dave Green, Leader of Bradford Council, said: “The Westfield and Meyer Bergman announcement is good news for Bradford. This is a clear signal of investor confidence.”
Westfield has been looking to reduce exposures, cutting costs and jobs at home in Australia, after a decade of expansion. Senior salaries have been frozen for three of the past four years.
The exposure at Bradford is real. Just 15 minutes drive away in Leeds is the new Trinity development, which will be one of the biggest malls in the UK, while right on the doorstep in Bradford is the successful Forster Square Retail Park which has free parking and good access. If Frank Lowy, boss of Westfield thought that the stakes were high, then we can assume they are. Much will depend on whether Bradford can be seen as a shopping destination. Shopping is moving online, except for destination shopping, where people are looking for a day out combined with shopping.