Ambitious plans to revamp Hale Leys Shopping centre, fill its units and extend it towards Exchange Street, linking it with the Waterside retail development, have been revealed.
The 22-shop centre was bought last week by Aylesbury Vale Estates, which is half owned by the district council, for around £13.4million – at a total cost of £5.7million to the taxpayer.
Three years ago, developer Warners Estates bought Hale Leys for around £26million.
Principal at Aylesbury Vale Estates, Graham Cole, says buying Hale Leys at a lower price allows the company to lower rent and make the centre more attractive to prospective tenants.
Mr Cole said: “The price we are buying the centre at is substantially lower, which makes Hale Leys a very sound business from which to build an asset.”
He added that the company is hoping to refurb Hale Leys in two stages. In the short term, it is hoping to make the centre ‘more welcoming, opening up and brightening up the entrances’. In the long term, it hopes to extend the centre out onto Exchange Street which, he said, would result in ‘significant improvements to the town centre and to Hale Leys’. It is also hoped the centre will then link up with the Waterside development.
Manager at the centre, Roger Simmons, says he is optimistic for the future.
He said he is keen to get things underway now that the deal has been sealed, as he has new tenants waiting to move into what currently appear to be empty units.
He said: “It’s great news for the town centre, as the previous owners were experiencing some financial difficulties. I’m very positive about it.”
He added that in addition to already proposed improvements, he would also like to see work on the centre’s lighting.
Deputy chief executive at the council, Jon McGinty, said the move was a good investment.
He added: “We think it is right for the town to have both Hale Leys and Friars Square.”
The contract was sealed in a deal in which Aylesbury Vale Estates paid out £3.4million of its own money for the centre. As the district council half funds the estates firm, half this money is public.
The firm also took out a £6million bank loan and borrowed an extra £4million off the council – from which the taxpayer will make £200,000 per year.