Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Pedestrian Heart and Binns

Jet-lagged, I walked around the town centre at 2am on Saturday to check-up on progress on the Pedestrian Heart scheme.

It was good to see more of the Northgate/Prospect Place area completed and opened up. Work on the steps in front of Binns also seems to coming along well. The contractors are focussing on this area, so that the "Binns corner" will be finished by mid-November.

Not reported in the Echo as far as I can see is this piece in the Journal regarding the sale of the Binns' building in Darlington. No need to panic - the store has a 40 year lease until 2039, so they will be in Darlington for many years to come. Of interest were the comments of the estate agents marketing the property;
Greg Davison, investrnent agent at DTZ in Newcastle, said: "It is in a good location for House of Fraser in terms of the demographic they are trying to get to. The key thing about the property and the reason for buying it would be the improvement that is taking place in Darlington town centre.

"One of the criticisms of Darlington in the past has been the amount of buses and traffic in the town centre." Mr Davison said the council's £6.5m plans to shut off to traffic much of the town centre, from Blackwellgate to Northgate next to Queen Street Shopping Centre, was expected to boost rental values. He said: "Prime Zone A rents within the town are just under 9100 per sqft. We expect the Pedestian Heart scheme to lead to considerable rental growth as the improvements to Darlington's retailing offer are seen to boost the catchment levels and retail spend per capital for the town."

The 1930s property, which includes storage space behind the main store at Mechanics Yard, are let to House of Fraser on a 4o-year lease expiring in luly 2039. The lease includes five-yearly upward-only rent reviews. The luly 2009 rent review will lead to a minimum rent increase of the lower of £870,000 per annum or the open market rent at the time.

Mr Davison said buyer interest so far had been received from private investors and property funds despite an anticipated increase in interest rates next month. He said: "Any well let retail investment is always going to be popular. The market is stilI strong in terms of demand."
It seems there's plenty of good news regarding Pedestrian Heart, although you might not read it in the letters page of the Echo at the moment.

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