Sprucefield owner plans huge £50m investment with 80-room hotel
Intu promises new shops, places to eat and an 80-bedroom hotel
Shopping centre giant Intu has announced a £50m investment in Sprucefield Park in Lisburn with the creation of around 500 jobs.
The site was formerly linked with department store John Lewis during a long controversy over planning, with the result that the retailer gave up any interest in the location.
And Martin Breeden, development director at Intu, yesterday confirmed that it is not in talks with John Lewis.
Intu, which owns shopping centres around the UK and in Spain, said it will add new shops, new places to eat and a 80-bedroom hotel, as well as landscaping improvements.
It would bring over 200 construction jobs and over 300 retail jobs.
The park is home to retailers including Sainsbury's and Next Home. A Toys R Us store on the site is to close.
Intu is subject to a potential takeover by UK rival Hammerson, which owns Abbey Retail Park.
Mr Breeden said: "We want to transform Sprucefield Park into an exciting place to shop, eat and relax to complement Lisburn's city centre offering.
"Our plans will deliver 13 retail units for the site, the largest of which will be 6,412 sq m over two levels. We are talking to a number of quality retailers but John Lewis is not currently one of those."
But he would not give any details about the identity of the "quality retailers".
"Not at the moment as our discussions are at a very early stage."
And he said the company was not fearful of the consequences of ploughing investment into out of town retail at a time when major chains such as Toys R Us have gone into administration after a long practice of trading from warehouse-style units.
He said: "Retail is a dynamic industry and people will always want great places to shop, eat and meet. This location is perfect and we already have interest from quality retailers. That's why we intend to invest £50m and are so excited by its potential."
But he refused to comment on whether the new plans involved revamping the sites occupied by its existing tenants, or on whether a new occupant had been found to take over the Toys R Us site.
"As we've said, we want to transform Sprucefield Park and complement Lisburn city centre by bringing new shops, new places to eat and a hotel with at least 80 bedrooms, as well as landscaping improvements, to create an exciting place to shop, eat and relax."
Sprucefield Retail Park is a separate development to Sprucefield Centre, home to retailers including Next, Marks and Spencer and Boots.
Intu had been the subject of a £3.4bn takeover bid by rival Hammerson, which owns Abbey Retail Park. But in a twist, Hammerson itself received a surprise £4.8bn 'cash and shares' approach from European rival Klepierre. It has until Monday to make a formal offer.
Intu announced its plans as a report from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG found that the cold weather in March kept people away from the streets.
The report said the period was volatile, as the run-up to Easter helped to offset the impact of the "seemingly endless" cold weather on sales.
It said UK retail sales increased by 1.4% on a like-for-like basis compared with March 2017, when they had decreased 1% from the preceding year.