The role of the shopping centre in the age of ecommerce and ‘click and collect’ is much debated, but recent innovations and initiatives at The Galleries Shopping Centre in Washington have demonstrated how centres can be reinvigorated as the lifeblood of communities.
Advances in environmental efficiency and a growing emphasis on social cohesion are central to recent developments at the centre.
The scale of the improvements to sustainability at The Galleries has helped put the centre at the forefront of technology-led environmentalism in the UK. It is thought that the installation of 1,317 photovoltaic panels or solar cells, covering 41,000 sq ft (the size of a professional football pitch) is the largest such array at any British shopping centre and is estimated to generate 315,000 kWh of electricity – enough energy to power 68 UK households for a year.
M&G Real Estate has invested significantly to make the project happen.
On the standout environmental benefits of the panels, David McNee, centre manager of The Galleries, says: “The installation sits on an unused part of the roof, greatly reducing the demand for energy from carbon-emitting sources and preventing the creation of 165 tonnes of CO2 annually.”
Sustainability is well embedded in M&G Real Estate’s investment approach and a dedicated in-house Responsible Property Investment Team drives improvements throughout the UK and globally across its £27 billion property portfolio.
The successful implementation of this project at The Galleries is another example of its industry-leading approach and the team is now considering similar schemes elsewhere.
David continues: “In addition to long-term advances such as this visionary solar panel system, The Galleries has also invested in creating an inclusive environment for its customers. A good example is the recent development of a Changing Places facility, which caters for the needs of people with severe disabilities.”
While the provision of accessible toilet facilities is a legal requirement across public and private buildings, a Changing Places bathroom provides a safer and more comfortable environment for shoppers with conditions such as motor neurone disease and cerebral palsy.
Chris Poole, an asset manager at M&G Real Estate, who is responsible for The Galleries, reveals that, as part of its commitment to the local community, M&G Real Estate is determined to ensure its facilities are available to all in Washington and the surrounding area.
As a recent example, The Galleries hosted a Brunch Club with charity Age UK before Christmas, inviting elderly people living without close friends or family to the centre to meet and chat over free breakfast and a hot drink. By providing free public transport to the centre, elderly customers who may find it difficult to travel alone were able to attend.
Chris says: “It is important to ensure the facilities we provide at The Galleries allow it to remain the hub of the local community. It can serve as a prime example to retail districts around the UK on how they can create a pleasant and sustainable environment to shop and socialise in.”
The Galleries Shopping Centre