Wolverhampton must compete with its retail rivals as Mander Centre plans released
Wolverhampton needs to catch up with places like Birmingham, Telford and Merry Hill, retail chiefs have admitted.
The city's Mander shopping centre has been earmarked for a multi-million pound regeneration scheme which will see a new department store move in with other units re-configured in a bid to attract big name retailers.
More details about the plans have now been released to members of the public.
As well as the new department store three new large shop units will be opened, along with eight kiosks. Another 39 smaller units will be replaced with 11 larger ones.
The upstairs of the centre will become more open plan with four bridges carrying shoppers from side to side.
Downstairs the shops on one side will be extended so that their front is roughly in line with the gallery balcony overheard, making them far more visible.
Boards will cover these while the renovation work continues inside each unit with bigger shops being seen as a key improvement to the Mander Centre
It is unclear if the refurbishment would be finished in time for the run up to Christmas 2016 but is hoped to be open by early 2017.
Steven Burgin, retail asset management for Delancey, which owns the shopping centre said the multi-million pound investment could help boost regeneration across the city. He added:
"Wolverhampton has not had retail investment for many years and needs to catch up with places like Birmingham, Telford and Merry Hill. We hope to bring some new brands to the city and that this will have a knock on effect leading to the regeneration of other areas."
Chris Corner from London-based Colman Architects who designed the refurbishment and has been working on the project for over two years, said: "It is a complex redevelopment with a lot of demolition and renovation but we have done 50 shopping centres in the past."
Mr Andrew King of DTZ, managing agent for the scheme, added: "We will be working very closely with the architect and the tenants to ensure that all parts of the centre are accessible to the public during the development process.The work will have to be carefully phased.
"Major work like the redevelopment of the site for the department store will be at one end of the centre and will not impact on pedestrian flow to other retailers. There will be phased work to move the lifts and escalators."
Shoppers and retailers have given a resounding thumbs up to the transformation of the centre. Scores of people took the opportunity to look at plans for the revamp when they went on view yesterday.
And the verdict from the vast majority was: This is just what the city needs.
Christine Thomas from Bridgnorth, who has run The Flower Stall at the Mander Centre since it opened 45 years ago, declared: "It desperately needs refurbishing.
"The attitude to shopping has changed over the years and we have got to change too. If the shoppers do not like what they see, they don't come and they don't buy.
"Percentage takes are down for everybody but we have all been lifted by news of the refurbishment. It is all people have wanted to talk about here since the news came out – and all the vibes are good."
Mrs Thomas has no worries about trade with the shopping centre staying open throughout the refurbishment. She explained: "I have been through this twice before in my time here and it was business as usual both times."
Lee Savory, 43, of Park View, Bilston who is looking for a retail outlet in the city for his business Corpse Clothing, said: "This is great news. I am a small independent retailer but Wolverhampton city centre really needs the big boys to get the place buzzing again and this development will bring them in. This will improve the rest of the city and stop it losing business to places like the Merry Hill Centre, Telford and Birmingham."
Mother of two Cherry Shine from Wednesbury, who recently started work as a director of the Wolverhampton Business Improvement District, commented: "I think it is very exciting for the city. I shop here at lunch time but this redevelopment will make it a weekend shopping destination as well."
Kim Gilmour a director of the WVOne Wolverhampton City Centre partnership commented: "We have been hoping for an initiative like this for a long time. It is the first pure retail investment in the city for a number of years. It is absolutely vital for the confidence of shoppers and investors."
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