House of Fraser has agreed to open a 100,000 sq ft department store in the Northgate retail development in Chester city centre, being developed directly by the local authority, advised by Rivington Land.
The anchor prelet greatly increases the chances of Northgate securing the funding needed to finally deliver the 500,000 sq ft retail development after decades of planning discussions, false starts and redesigns.
An affiliate of MCAP Global Finance has also signed an agreement to open a new 167-bed four-star Crowne Plaza hotel, with a spa, and a 600-capacity conference facility, which will be the biggest in the city. MCAP Global Finance, a UK subsidiary of New York-based investment adviser Marathon Asset Management LP, through its affiliated companies, owns a substantial UK hotel real estate portfolio, including a number of IHG-branded properties amongst other recognised international brands.
House of Fraser says its design for Chester will include a large health and beauty section and rooftop restaurant overlooking the racecourse. The retailer has other stores in Manchester, Birkenhead where it trades as Beatties, Shrewsbury, Altrincham and Carlisle.
The scheme is still seeking development finance. The first phase, to start later this year, will see restaurant units created in the space currently occupied by the library, once that facility moves to the new cultural centre. Construction of a six-screen Picturehouse cinema, to open in 2019, is scheduled to start next year, along with the demolition of the existing hotel, once the new one has been completed, ensuring continuity of trading for the hotel. Once that site is cleared, the retail element anchored by the department store can begin, ahead of opening in late 2021.
As well as the department store, hotel and cinema, Chester Northgate will provide around 70 stores, cafés and restaurants, more than 70 homes, and the city’s largest car park.
Cllr Samantha Dixon, leader of CWAC, said: “Being able to attract brands like House of Fraser, Picturehouse and Crowne Plaza is a measure of the appeal of Chester Northgate to other occupiers and investors and reinforces our ambition to return Chester to its rightful place as a leading shopping and leisure destination.
“We believe Chester Northgate to be one of the UK’s biggest emerging retail-led city centre developments. The project shows that Cheshire West and Chester Council is pioneering innovative new ways of driving growth and underlines our consistent commitment to steering the big projects that will transform Chester city centre.”
Frank Slevin, executive chairman of House of Fraser, said: “We are very pleased to announce that we have signed an agreement to open an anchor store at Chester Northgate. Chester is an exciting location for us, being at the centre of a thriving regional economy. With its modern design, Chester Northgate will rejuvenate Chester city centre attracting more visitors and creating a dynamic retail environment.
“The new store clearly cements our commitment to and vision for the future growth of House of Fraser. The growth of our store portfolio and the further development of House of Fraser’s multichannel offer provides solid foundations for the on-going transformation of the business, ultimately driving a great customer experience. I look forward to the store opening in 2021.”
David Lewis, chief executive of Rivington Land, said: “With the signings of House of Fraser and Crowne Plaza, following on the back of both the planning permission granted last year and the announcement of Picturehouse as the cinema operator, we are reaching an exciting time for the Chester Northgate development. The commitment from major brands serves as recognition of the huge potential of a revitalised Chester city centre.
“We are now in the process of agreeing terms with other major retailers as well as catering operators, who have also recognised the innovative approach of Cheshire West and Chester Council in driving this scheme forward. Chester Northgate has been designed to meet the future requirements of national, regional and local retail and leisure occupiers and will act as a catalyst for the regeneration of Chester.”
A drop-in session for people to learn more about the plans for Northgate is being held at Chester Town Hall on Wednesday 8 February from 3pm to 5pm.