Westfield and Hammerson form £1bn joint venture to redevelop Croydon town centre
WESTFIELD and Hammerson have formed a £1bn joint venture to redevelop Croydon town centre.
The deal will see the companies join forces to redevelop and combine the Whitgift Centre and Centrale, with the potential creation of more than 5,000 jobs.
It ends a long running battle between the two developers over the future of the Whitgift Centre.
Australian retail giant Westfield and Anglo-French developer Hammerson had been in deadlock for more than a year.
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Now the companies have formed a joint venture to purchase a 25 per cent interest in the 42-year-old shopping centre, following completion of Hammerson's conditional acquisition agreement with Royal London.
Westfield will also buy a 50 per cent share of Centrale, the £115 million mall opposite the Whitgift Centre owned by Hammerson.
Subject to planning permission, which the companies hope to secure this year, construction is expected to start on the 200,000 sqm site, including retail, leisure and new homes, in 2015.
Speaking at a press conference at Fairfield Halls this morning (Thursday), Mayor of London Boris Johnson hailed the investment as "great news".
He said: "Croydon has huge potential to return to its former glory as one of London's most vibrant town centres, and a major driver of its economy. The redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre at its heart is crucial to this vision.
"Westfield and Hammerson's innovative developments have breathed new life into long neglected corners of cities across the country, creating thousands of jobs and delivering growth that will soon be repeated in south London.
"It is great news that these two international developers are coming together to drive forward this vital regeneration and put Croydon at the heart of London's future prosperity, building confidence for investors and local people in one of the capital's most important town centres."
Council leader Mike Fisher added that it was a "red letter day" for Croydon.
"This has been a partnership between us, the mayor [of London] and the two world class developers to bring this forward. We will move heaven and earth to ensure it goes ahead as quickly as possible," he told the Advertiser.
Frank Lowy AC, chairman of Westfield, said: "The £1billion redevelopment joint venture with Hammerson will provide certainty for the residents, local businesses and retailers of Croydon and the region.
"The delivery of a major retail regeneration scheme will re-establish Croydon as South London's premier shopping district and will be a catalyst to further investment and development in the Croydon borough."
David Atkins, chief executive of Hammerson, said the redevelopment of the town centre could now proceed with "clarity".
He explained: "We have shown our commitment to Croydon through our existing investments in the town centre and I believe that by working together we can deliver a world class scheme for retailers and residents.
"Both we and Westfield remain excited and convinced by the opportunity in Croydon, which we can now progress with clarity."
Ian Harley, chairman of the Whitgift Foundation, said: ""As the freeholder of the Whitgift Centre, the Foundation is delighted that there is now alignment between the key commercial players in the town and we look forward to working together with all parties to find a way to bring forward this much needed regeneration."
Mr Fisher said: "We're delighted that the developers have listened to our concerns and have come together in the best interests of Croydon. The council's aim has always been to ensure that the redevelopment of the Whitgift Centre was resolved as soon as possible and we've worked hard towards achieving this.
"There is still a planning process to go through, but this is a significant breakthrough which is bound to be a catalyst for further investment and economic growth in the town centre and the borough. It is a major part of the council's wide-reaching regeneration schemes for Croydon.
"This has placed Croydon in the position of having two significant and experienced developers jointly wanting to invest in the town, confirming its position as one of the top places in the south, outside of London, for retail and commercial investment."
Labour leader Tony Newman said the joint venture marked the start of Croydon's "fightback".
He added: "In the meetings I had with both last year, their commitment and passion for working in Croydon has really shone through.
"The challenge now is to ensure we maximise the amount of quality jobs and training that this project brings for local people.
"I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead,both for the good of the town and to ensure they really do deliver on the issue of local jobs."
Westfield and Hammerson will meet with the council, businesses and residents in the coming weeks to discuss the plans before creating a revised masterplan by combining the best elements of both their previous schemes.
They have set up a joint management company which has responsibility for development, leasing and asset management of the final scheme. Westfield will undertake design and construction of the new look shopping centre and Hammerson will continue to manage Centrale and any further acquisitions prior to the development of the Whitgift Centre.