New pubs, cafes and 'big-name brands' promised under £50m Merry Hill upgrade

A further £50 million is to be spent on transforming the Merry Hill shopping complex - with bosses promising new shops, restaurants and family entertainment.

The Merry Hill shopping centre is promising new shops and restaurants for customers
The Merry Hill shopping centre is promising new shops and restaurants for customers

Ellandi, which has taken over the running of the centre after the demise of intu, says it plans to create a 'leisure district' as part of a complete design overhaul at the Brierley Hill centre.

The improvements are due to be completed over the next four years and come as a £14m project to add decorative panelling to the outside of the main shopping building nears completion.

Bosses have said new "big-name brands" will be opening stores at the centre and that improved cafes, restaurants and leisure activities will be on offer, however no details have been provided regarding which businesses are part of the plans or how the centre will look.

An initial relaunch of Merry Hill is planned for September ahead of the larger overhaul of the 2 million sq ft site, with announcements regarding the new cafes and shops planned in the coming months.

Mark Robinson, co-founder of Ellandi, said: “Our plans mean that by July 2025, Merry Hill will be the West Midlands’ most vibrant family lifestyle destination, embedded right in the heart of the local community.

“When complete, shoppers will be able to visit a range of new, big-name brands, in addition to familiar favourites and independent retailers. We are also thrilled to confirm Merry Hill will welcome a range of all-new family leisure attractions, providing visitors with plenty of fun and excitement in between shopping and dining.

“The expected arrival of the Wednesbury to Brierley Hill Metro extension in late 2023, which will see the creation of a new station close to The Waterfront, will also make getting to and from the centre easier and more environmentally-friendly than ever before.

We are extremely confident that our ambitious plans will transform the centre into the premier retail and leisure designation of choice for the West Midlands – creating a cherished destination that the whole community can take pride in.

“Despite the past 15 months, exciting occupiers seem to share our vision with over 20 units currently in negotiations with new retailers to Merry Hill.”

Flagship store Debenhams closed in May and several units remain empty

The Covid-19 pandemic has put major pressure on shopping centres and retailers, with previous Merry Hill owner intu collapsing last year as shops struggled to pay rent.

Ellandi took over at the site in the autumn of last year and while the last main intu sign has now been removed, many units remain empty including the flagship Debenhams shop which closed down in May.

However 22 shops and restaurants have recently signed new or renewed agreements at Merry Hill including Superdry, HMV, Foot Asylum, Bon Pan and toy store Hamleys, which opened this month and created 10 jobs.

A number of stores are also said to be planning upgrades, including Asda which is spending £3m on improving its store.

Jonathan Poole, who took over as manager of the centre in the spring, said: “I am delighted to have joined Merry Hill at such an exciting and transformative point in its history.

“The West Midlands is a wonderfully diverse and welcoming part of the country, and I have been truly blown away by the amount of pride people take in their local culture and heritage.

“Kicking off with our first-phase relaunch in September, the programme of improvements, upgrades and attractions will breathe new life into the centre.

“We know that people love Merry Hill for being home to more than 250 shops, but we also want them to love it as a leisure and lifestyle destination too and these improvements will deliver just that; a contemporary, attractive environment offering a spectrum of big-name and independent brands - as well as a range of new dining destinations - ensuring that customers will want to return time and again.”

Duncan Burns, marketing manager at Merry Hill; Alex Brooker, director of asset management at Ellandi; Christina Martin, retail liaison at Merry Hill; Jonathan Poole, centre manager; Jaspal Singh, asset manager at Ellandi and Alistair Winning, asset manager at Ellandi

The plans also include a goal to make Merry Hill carbon neutral by 2030 through schemes such as installing solar panels and 200 electric vehicle charging points.

The revamp will take place alongside the nearby work to redevelop the waterfront and build a new tram line from Wednesbury to Brierley Hill.

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street welcomed the news, saying:“Not only will these fantastic plans help to breathe new life into the centre, but it also represents yet more significant private sector investment in the West Midlands.

“That businesses are still investing here despite the uncertainty the pandemic has caused speaks volumes for how far the West Midlands has come in recent years.

“I wish the team at Merry Hill the very best for the coming months and years, and I absolutely cannot wait to see these ambitious plans come to life.”

Dudley South MP Mike Wood added: “As a major supporter of jobs in our region, this £50 million plus boost for Merry Hill will ensure the continued prosperity of thousands of constituents, all while delivering a premiere shopping and leisure destination in the heart of the West Midlands.”

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