Belfast Telegraph

Junction One reveals £30m revamp creating 500 new jobs

By John Mulgrew

A £30m revamp and expansion of the ailing Junction One shopping centre will bring almost 500 new jobs and make the retail park "thrive once again", its new owners have said.

The Co Antrim retail park is expanding with 20 new shops, cafes and restaurants, with plans being submitted to grow the area, which will also include a new entrance.

And Alastair Coulson, asset and property management director of owner The Lotus Group, said Junction One "will thrive again" and become "one of the biggest retail and leisure destinations in Northern Ireland, if not the biggest", bringing shop and cafe numbers to around 100.

He said the park - which has been "neglected" for many years - will see a raft of new retail names. And while he would not reveal which companies could be added to the site, he said Lotus is in "legals" with around six or seven new tenants.

"We are building new gateway buildings at the entrance on the way in - a higher-end architectural finish to set the scene," he said.

It will also feature revamped landscaping, a new square area and a water feature.

"By the cinema, we are putting in a couple of new restaurants and drive-through pods to increase the night time economy," Mr Coulson said.

The centre has struggled in the wake of the recession, and now has 25% vacancy across the entire park.

But it still boasts some big retail names, including Asda, Next, Gap Outlet and Denby.

The businesses at Junction One currently employ more than 1,000 staff.

Junction One was set up in 2004, but in the latest set of published accounts for Junction One Ltd, it was valued at less than £8m.

Mr Coulson said a planning application will be submitted soon, with a community consultation taking place at the start of next year.

"We are talking to bulky good suppliers, multi-national restaurant operators for food and beverages, and we are talking to those in the cafe and coffee shop market, as well as targeting retailers," he said.

"We are very confident we can turn it around. Junction One has struggled over the last five years because of a lack of investment."

The redevelopment is expected to take around 18 months.

Meanwhile, sales at Banbridge's The Outlet - which was purchased by Lotus along with Junction One for around £40m - are up by around 22%.

Mr Coulson said footfall and turnover increased in October, compared with the same period a year earlier. However, he said the proportion of visitors from the Republic had remained largely flat, despite the weak pound.

Belfast Telegraph