Swindon’s yet-to-open Regent Circus leisure and retail development has been sold for £40.5m – nearly £8m more than the price it was on the market for.
The new owner is Guernsey-based property investment company UK Commercial Property Trust (UKCPT), which also owns Swindon’s The Parade shopping centre.
As revealed by Swindon Business News earlier this month, Regent Circus developer Bristol-based Ashfield Land had put the 97,000 sq ft scheme up for sale with a £32.8m price tag months before it is due to open.
Pictured: Construction work on Regent Circus. Photo by Forward Swindon
Ashfield Land director James Digby confirmed that contracts have been exchanged and that completion would take place at the end of the year once work on the development, which includes a six-screen cinema, seven restaurants and a Morrisons supermarket, is completed. It is due to open to the public early next year.
Ashfield Land acquired the freehold of the five-acre derelict Swindon College site in 2006, which enabled the college to relocate to its new £17m campus.
The scheme is more than 94% pre-let with just one unit remaining without a tenant – testament, according to Ashfield Land, to the strength of the scheme and the lack of modern, family-oriented leisure and eating out opportunities in Swindon.
UKCPT described Regent Circus as “the first new retail and leisure scheme to be built in Swindon in a number of years” and said it “will provide a modern, prominent and central scheme which will benefit from the town's strong communication and transport links, as well as a wide and affluent catchment area”.
The 47,780 sq ft leisure part of the scheme is anchored by a 19,000 sq ft digital cinema to be operated by Cineworld, the UK’s largest multiplex chain with 79 cinemas. The remainder of the leisure space will be taken up by restaurants – signed up so far are Prezzo, ASK, Nando’s, Coal Grill and Bar, Jimmy’s World Grill & Bar and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. This part of the scheme has its own 212-space car park.
In front of the scheme will be a plaza facing the town centre. Morrisons will occupy the 49,410 sq ft foodstore, which will face Victoria Road and have its own 238-space car park.
The Morrisons supermarket will open in November, with the leisure element expected to open in early 2015, UKCPT said this week. According to UKCPT, Regent Circus will generate a rental income of £2.1m a year.
Hundreds of jobs are being created by the scheme. Morrisons recently announced it is recruiting 180 people for its store and there will be many more job opportunities at the eight restaurants and at Cineworld.
Pictured: Artist’s impression of Regent Circus
UKCPT chairman Christopher Hill said:“This acquisition supports the company’s ongoing investment strategy of acquiring assets that have the potential for both income and capital growth.
“It also represents an increase in the company’s leisure holdings, one of the company’s favoured sectors, and is let to tenants with strong covenants and on terms that will also improve the average lease length of the portfolio.”
Ashfield Land managing director Andrew Fisher said: “Right from the word go we were determined to create an exceptional new leisure destination right in the very heart of Swindon and I think the evidence is there for everyone to see that we have delivered everything we promised.
“It is an example of Ashfield Land’s vision and ability to buy sites with potential, and to create developments that add huge value to the surrounding area.
“Regent Circus is a truly-inspiring development and will become the leisure focus of the town for many years to come. The high quality of the development and the exceptional location has attracted some of the UK’s leading restaurant brands and one of the top four supermarket operators.
“Interest in the units at the development accelerated once we started construction and it served to highlight the pent-up demand and the strength of the development. It is enormously satisfying to see the jigsaw almost complete and the transformation of this part of Swindon town centre on the brink of being realised.”
UKCPT is the largest Guernsey-based, UK-focused commercial property trust. It is listed on the London Stock Exchange. It owns a varied range of property schemes across the UK including shopping centres, leisure developments, industrial estates and office schemes.
It bought The Parade in 2005 and has invested heavily in it to transform it from a tired shopping scheme into a modern 332,000 sq ft retail centre with tenants such as Debenhams, BHS, River Island, Top Shop/Top Man, Monsoon and Tesco. It is now one of the best-performing properties in UKCPT's extensive portfolio, which includes several showpiece office buildings in Bristol and London.
UKCPT is advised by Glasgow-based Ignis Asset Management. JLL acted for Ashfield Land and BNP Paribas for UKCPT.