Covid crisis could leave Eldon Square almost half empty – and city is ‘fighting’ to keep John Lewis

Almost half of the Eldon Square purchasing centre could be empty as soon as lockdown ends – and Newcastle is “combating” to keep its flagship John Lewis retailer.

Shoppers have been warned that Newcastle city centre will look very completely different to pre-Covid occasions after they return subsequent month.

Non-essential outlets are due to reopen when lockdown measures are eased on April 12, whereas pubs and eating places may also give you the option to provide outside service from that date.

But a high city council boss says that main sections of Eldon Square might be “pretty darkish”.

The collapse of Debenhams has seen the centre lose one in all its main department shops, all Topshop websites are being shut following the model’s buy by ASOS, and different outlets like Thornton’s are additionally gone for good.

Michelle Percy, Newcastle City Council’s director of place, stated on Friday that the native authority is now “combating to keep John Lewis within the city centre” after it introduced eight retailer closures elsewhere within the UK this week.

She additionally expects that “just one or two” eating places within the Grey’s Quarter eating space in Eldon Square might be ready to open once more.

John Lewis in Newcastle’s Eldon Square

Eldon Square was taken beneath new administration final yr after earlier proprietor Intu went into administration and it was revealed in November that the Covid pandemic had wiped greater than £50 million off the council’s stake within the centre.

Ms Percy advised the council’s audit committee: “During 2020 it was nicely documented that Intu went into administration. We at the moment are working with the bond holders, an organization referred to as Debenture PLC and APAM who’ve been appointed to handle the asset on their behalf. I’m clear that now we have relationship with them and we’re working in direction of some options, however these options are long run.

“Eldon Square represents about 1.3 million sq. toes and we’re most likely going to see the lack of up to 400,000 or 500,000 sq. toes from the centre – almost 50%.

“At the second, in fact, there is no retail open. But truly as soon as it begins to reopen we all know a number of the malls might be pretty darkish – Debenhams mall, St Andrew’s Way, the Arcadia group.

“That in its personal proper is going to be a problem, however now we have additionally seen a big influence on footfall within the city centre. Outside of lockdown intervals we noticed there have been 50% of regular ranges, in lockdown it has been 80% beneath.

“That place of reworking the city centre and what it wants to appear to be is an ever-changing place.”

Last week, the council launched a £50 million imaginative and prescient to redesign the city centre – together with a pedestrianisation of Grey Street and an pressing strategic assessment of Eldon Square.

Ms Percy stated that plan had “by no means been extra vital” because the city makes an attempt to get well from the devastating influence of the Covid-19, including that the city centre “wants to grow to be extra dynamic” to deal with the shop closures accelerated by the pandemic crisis.

She recommended that the closed Eldon Leisure facility inside Eldon Square could be reinvigorated with an indoor tennis courtroom or to be used as a pop-up gallery.

Gosforth Lib Dem councillor Philip Hall raised issues at Friday’s committee assembly that the council risked focusing an excessive amount of on the city centre’s restoration and that outlying purchasing districts like Gosforth High Street could be “left behind”.

Labour’s Coun Paul Frew additionally complained that councillors had “not had any overview of the decision-making course of” across the £50 million imaginative and prescient, saying it was “irritating” to see council committing to that “with out seeing the understanding”.



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