Wigan Council plans to deliver a regeneration scheme “after years of stagnation and decline” having bought The Galleries shopping centre, a 440,000 sq ft asset in the centre of the town.
The Galleries was bought from Colcastor Sarl, based in Luxembourg, for an undisclosed sum, and was part-funded by the dividend the council receives from Manchester Airport as a shareholder with the nine other Greater Manchester councils.
The purchase also includes the Makinson Arcade and Marketgate.
According to the council, diverse uses for The Galleries will be identified and new retailers will be sought “to breathe new life into the centre, alongside retention of its most popular stores”.
Asset manager Vales Retail gained planning consent in 2015 for a £60m overhaul of The Galleries, which proposed turning the centre’s 150 separate units into 26 larger shops, in order to attract restaurant operators and a cinema. The plans were never progressed.
The Galleries covers a six-acre plot in the middle of Wigan, and was built in the 1980s.
The council said its decision to buy the asset was partly down to “fears that if this decline is allowed to continue it will have far-reaching knock-on effects for the wider town centre and could possibly close altogether creating a huge mothballed site.”
The current and future loss of business rates also contributed to the decision, with changes in how local authorities are funded meaning councils are increasingly reliant on business rates to fund vital services.
CBRE has been commissioned to create a 90-day plan as well as a long term vision for the site, and will also manage the asset on behalf of the council in the first 12 months. The consultancy will investigate new uses for The Galleries alongside its retail offer, which could include leisure, food and drink and residential development.
Wigan Council is one of many local authorities turning to retail property investment in order to deliver financial returns in the face of Government cuts.
Other recent examples include Stockport Council, Rochdale Council, Chorley Council and Sheffield Council. Last month, Trafford Council joined the list, acquiring The Graftons shopping centre for £6m.