Westfield have yet to secure a deal with John Lewis to take a flagship department store in the £1 billion supermall that they want to build in the town centre.
Getting John Lewis into the centre of Croydon has been the equivalent of the Holy Grail for the town’s burghers and bureaucrats for decades, and delivering on this was a core offer of the Hammersfield development schtick when it was since first announced by London Mayor Boris Johnson, accompanied by a grinning local MP Gavin Barwell, four years ago.
John Lewis were thought to be the ideal business to move in on the key site where Allders was once synonymous with Croydon. But this week, a senior council source confided with Inside Croydon that Westfield’s movers and shakers had, as yet, failed to convince John Lewis to agree to take a lease on the property.
With retailing becoming ever more an online business, slower economic growth and the fear of another global downturn, plus further delays to the Hammersfield development to the extent that an opening date in 2019 is looking increasingly optimistic, it is perhaps little wonder that John Lewis have gone all non-committal on signing up for the Croydon development.
Things have gone decidedly quiet all-round with the scheme, being developed between Westfield and Hammerson to regenerate the ageing Whitgift Centre and the unloved Centrale on the other side of North End. It was September when council leader Tony Newman was hanging bunting from the Town Hall and proclaiming “a historic day” after Whitehall approved the council’s Compulsory Purchase Order for land around the Whitgift Centre.
That was more than four months ago. Since when… not a lot. There’s a suggestion of some legal difficulties at the council over aspects of the CPO, while traders still in the Whitgift Centre have been given lease extensions through the 2016 Christmas sales period – suggesting that no work will begin before 2017.
It has created a dilemma for those traders left hanging on in there: each month, businesses leave the Whitgift Centre, adding to the atmosphere of decline and decay.
“It’s like an old family pet now,” our Katharine Street source said. “Everyone knows it would be a kindness to have it put down, but no one wants to take that decision.”
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