Norwich’s Castle Mall sold for �77.3m and set to change its name
One of Norwich's shopping malls is under new ownership after being sold in a deal worth tens of millions of pounds.
The Mall Norwich - which is now reverting back to its original name of Castle Mall - has been bought by London-based InfraRed Capital Partners from previous owner The Mall Fund for �77.3m and the new owner has pledged investment adding 'considerable value' to the centre.
The sale shows yet another vote of confidence in Norwich's retail scene which is one of the top ten retail destinations in the country and in recent times has seen extensive multi-million pound investments by Marks and Spencer and John Lewis, along with significant investment from other key stores in the city.
The Castle Mall's acting general manager Amanda Phillips, who has 12 years experience in shopping centre management including managing Covent Garden Market in London, has been brought in by InfraRed while the search is on to appoint a permanent manager.
Previous general manager Alan Day left the mall to move back to Aberdeen in June after being at the helm of the centre for about five years.
Ms Phillips said from her experience of Norwich so far she can fully see why the city deserves its place in the national top ten shopping destinations and she said there were exciting times ahead for the Castle Mall.
She said: 'It is obviously very exciting for the team on site as it always is when someone new takes over, for Castle Mall InfraRed have got some ideas which they would like to put in place and some money to invest into the centre so it can only enhance the shopping centre.'
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She added: 'The finalised plans are not in place yet so I cannot comment at this moment in time. They (InfraRed) have bought it (Castle Mall) with a view to enhance what is here.
'They are very excited. They are very happy they have bought the shopping centre and looking forward to the future.'
Ms Phillips said the purchase of a shopping centre sent out positive vibes to retailers and she thought it would generate interest from retailers.
She said the first change shoppers were likely to notice was that the centre is reverting back to its original name of Castle Mall - from now on staff will refer to the centre as Castle Mall although it will be some time before all of the existing signs are changed.
When asked what other changes shoppers could expect in the future, she said: 'I would say watch this space. There will be changes in time but I am not in a position to comment at the moment.'
She added: 'We want to get the message out that it is exciting and it is an exciting time for the people of Norwich.' Between 1998 and 2006 InfraRed managed three specialist shopping centre funds and acquired and sold 20 shopping centres. It returned to the UK shopping centre market in 2011, acquiring The Galleries, in Bristol, St John's Centre, in Liverpool, and now Norwich's Castle Mall.
Chris Huxtable, director at InfraRed, said: 'The purchase of Castle Mall completes a hat-trick of shopping centre deals for us since we re-entered the UK shopping centre market at the beginning of 2011.
'This time, we have directed our investment into in the top-tier retailing cities and into large centres that are characterised by high footfall, affordable rents and strong retailer performance.
'This segment of the retail market has proved resilient in the current economic climate. We plan to add considerable value to the centres through additional investment.'
Stefan Gurney, Norwich City Centre Partnership manager, said he thought the new ownership of Castle Mall would provide a boost to the city's retail scene.
He said: 'They (InfraRed) are talking about investing in the development of the Castle Mall and that is obviously a positive thing for the city - any refurbishment or redevelopment of the site can only add to what is already there.'
He said the purchase of the Castle Mall and the fact the city has seen recent significant investment by Marks and Spencer and John Lewis, and also investment by other stores including Jarrold, shows the confidence retailers have in the city.
'Everyone has seen Norwich is a top retail destination,' he said.
'It is a really strong retail scene. Even in this economic downturn they can see that it is trading well.
'It is a strong reflection on how positively Norwich is seen nationally and how well we are trading against the national downturn.'
When asked what he hopes to see the new owners achieve with Castle Mall, he said: 'I think anything that draws in new stores into the site, and an upgrade and refurbishment would be likely to do that.
'The more stores and the more different stores in Norwich, the more value the city has, and it makes the city a more diverse shopping offer.
'We would like to welcome them (InfraRed Capital Partners) into the city and hope that they bring some new trade and fresh ideas with them.'
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Norwich's Castle Mall was opened to the public on Thursday, September 23 1993 and was designed by Lambert Scott and Innes, with Michael Innes as the architect and lead designer.
The construction cost was �75 million and the total development cost was �145 million.
Estates and General Plc were the developers and part funders of the scheme until summer 1992 when Friends Provident Life Office, the principal funding partner, assumed full responsibility for the development.
About seven years ago it was bought by The Mall Fund, and the centre's name was changed to The Mall Norwich.
The centre occupies nearly seven acres of land, four acres of which used to be the old Cattle Market, and prior to the centre being built the site was subject to an extensive archaeological dig.
Castle Mall has about 90 units, and retailers which have a store in the centre include Boots, Argos, TK Maxx and New Look. There is also an eight-screen multiplex Vue cinema and about 800 car parking spaces.
The centre currently has about 12 empty units, and a new Mexican and noodle food outlet is due to open in the Castle Mall soon.