Creating new communities for centres

Even before the opening of intu Lakeside’s £72 million leisure development in August 2019, longer-term plans for an even bigger transformation of the centre were underway.

The vision: a “vibrant new community”, says intu development director Martin Breeden, that will grow up around intu Lakeside in the thousand or more new homes for the private rented sector, new public realm spaces, transport connections, and lifestyle and leisure facilities all to be built alongside the existing shopping centre which already welcomes 20 million visitors a year.

“In effect it’s a new town centre,” says Charlie Weatherill, director of residential capital markets at Savills, who is working with intu on the project.

It’s a grand ambition. And it’s part of a major strategic shift that has been a long time in the planning.

Modern visitors demand more reasons to visit a centre. And that means everything from food to clothing to leisure to living spaces, all in one place. To this end there are innovations taking place throughout the intu portfolio.

From intu Trafford Centre, which next year will connect up with the Greater Manchester tram network, to the Nottingham Street Food Club at intu Victoria Centre, to the seven-year regeneration and refurbishment plan for intu Merry Hill in Dudley, major works are underway to make full use of the spaces in and around intu centres and maximise their magnetic effect on visitors.

With only around 50% of the surface area of intu’s out-of-town estate currently developed on, there is a lot of space to be leveraged and a lot of potential to be capitalised on. And as an early adopter of the fundamental shift towards greater diversity of uses in retail-led development, intu saw the perfect opportunity to take a step forward towards a new strategic direction for the company.

“It’s an acceleration of a trend,” says Breeden. “There’s a whole variety of things you can do there. It’s about providing something for everyone. It’s not just about rental income or land value. It’s the knock-on impact and the spend that comes from having a community living nearby.”

The plans for the residential scheme at intu Lakeside are still at a very early stage – the initial public consultation was held in July. But Weatherill says the idea is already creating a buzz. He says: “It brings a new level of excitement and dynamism to this part of the world that will really benefit the shopping centre and the retail and leisure brands in it.

“It’s good news for the Lakeside Basin and Thurrock and it’s great news for intu because it’s the first step on a really important innovative journey.”

A journey guided by the principle behind the intu Lakeside residential development, that a modern centre needs to be diverse, multi-faceted, and make the maximum use of the space around it, if it’s going to keep visitors coming back.