October 26, 2020 @ 9:27 by Steven Hugill
A flagship North East shopping mall has switched to new management – with bosses unveiling initial £25 million investment plans to “inject new life” into the site.
Sovereign Centros has today (Monday, October 26) taken over the running of Gateshead’s Metrocentre.
Replacing former operator Intu, Sovereign Centros officials say they aim to bring new names to the Metrocentre and its adjacent retail park, adding they will also work with existing stores to extend their respective retail footprints at the mall.
Under the terms of its deal, Sovereign Centros is asset managing the venue on behalf of the Metrocentre Partnership, with Savills overseeing on-site property management.
Confirming its £25 million plan to deliver swift improvements to the site, Chris Geaves, Sovereign Centros’ chief executive, said the business aims to make the MetroCentre a “complete day-out experience”.
He said: “This is a very important day and we are delighted to be taking the centre over.
“There are clearly challenges for us all at this time, but we want to take the centre back to where it was as ‘The Metrocentre’, which the local community was always very proud of.
“Our aim is to inject new life with vigour with different uses to ensure that it remains the place to come to for a very long time.
“We are in discussions with a number of existing retailers who want to upsize, which goes to show how well they trade, and we have a number of new exciting concepts who want to be represented.
“The Partnership are making the additional finance available, initially £25 million to enable these things to happen.
“The adjacent retail park, which is an important part of the overall offer, needs some attention.
“Again, we have some good ideas to freshen this up and bring in some new names.”
Sovereign Centros’ appointment comes almost 34 years to the day since the centre first opened.
The Metrocentre was the brainchild of Sir John Hall, a miner’s son who acquired the site for £100,000.
When it opened its doors to the public on October 14 1986, it became the largest shopping centre in the UK.
Chris added: “It’s quite clear when you look back at the evolution of the centre that Sir John always had shoppers at the heart of his ideas.
“How visitors felt at every point in the centre was clearly very important to him.
“When you look at shopping centres now, in the climate we are in, it’s quite clear they can’t exist as just a shopping destination.
“They need to offer more; centres like this need to offer a complete day-out experience.”
Martin Healy, director for the Metrocentre Partnership, said: “We have put in place a team we are confident will take the asset forward, building on its enviable reputation and we look forward to working with them.”