26 April 2017
The South Bank Show

London’s South Bank has been the focus of intense office and residential development but its environment for shopping, eating and drinking has lagged behind. That is all about to change. Nobody did more to transform the skyline of London’s South Bank and draw attention to the location than Shard developer, the late Irvine Sellar, but even he conceded that retailing in the area was not up to par with the rest of the capital.

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He observed: “The one weakness in this area is there isn’t enough retail and I haven’t found an answer yet, but everything else is here”.

However, that is all about to change with close to 2m sq ft of shopping, eating and drinking space due to be developed across the location during the next few years.

Sellar would have been pleased that The Shard gave momentum to the plans for retail development around London Bridge station which is undergoing massive remodelling. Beneath the platforms in the station’s original, but considerably smartened up railway arches, 95,000 sq ft of new retail/leisure space is being developed. However, as with much of London at present, it is the eating and drinking offers which will lead the way initially.

Neil Davies of South Bank specialist property agency, Union Street Partners, comments: “It’s a restaurant story at London Bridge with successes like Caravan in Great Guildford Street and Gordon Ramsay’s Union Street Cafe in Great Suffolk Street.

“Retail hasn’t predominated there but it is coming through and there will be demand because, previously, people have had to cross the river to go shopping. It’s catching up fast.”

Railway arches are also the setting for new development on Leake Street adjacent to Waterloo station.

Union Street Partners is the letting agent for 25,000 sq ft of space and is also on the transformation of the station’s former Eurostar platforms which are being redeveloped into a 135,000 sq ft shopping centre. Leake Street is mostly attracting F&B and leisure operators. Italian craft beer pub, The Italian Job, is opening its first central London venue at Leake Street; Aures is creating what will be the UK’s first custom-built acoustic event space while Mother Clucker, currently in Camden Market, Peckham Springs and Hawker House, Canada Water, will be taking their first standalone unit.

However, the ex-Eurostar scheme will be more pure retail. Davies comments: “The marketing pitch is not that this is station retail: it is a shopping centre which happens to be located at a station”. Scheduled to open in 2019-20, the centre will be fashion-led, with a food offer to complement the station concourse retailing. Davies says that the retail will be pitched at “multiples and high-street names.”

Perhaps most crucially for the South Bank, we are now seeing major retail development away from the riverside. In this context, the redevelopment of the old Vinopolis site to the south of Borough Market will be important...

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