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beneath the site. The development has acknowledged these through the branding of Lion Walk, wall mounted mosaics, stone engravings and use of local heritage colours. The public realm was another key consideration and Roe

says the walkway materials of concrete and brick paviors looked particularly dated. They were replaced with natural York Stone of variegated lengths and random courses which provides a calm, light and uninterrupted backdrop to the retail development. Several engraved stone incidental slabs depict historical artifacts found beneath. “The choice of light materials, the location of seating, furniture,

soft landscaping and branding has created an attractive setting to improve shopper dwell time,” says Roe. But Roe says the biggest problem to be addressed was the

facades to the malls. The asbestos cement tile hanging, black recessed mortar joints and dark brown-stained soffit boarding collectively produced a sombre, dark environment.

“Lion Walk has again become an asset that Colchester can be proud of”

His solution was to use reflective surfaces on the soffits and

facades that take borrowed light from the sky and shop fronts and illuminate the walkways. This has visually increased the sense of space within the restricted streets. An acid-etched skyline depicts local landmarks around Colchester. At the same time the new cladding includes better insulation,

so the refurbished parts of the property comply with the new Part L of the Building Regulations as well as enjoying a lower carbon footprint. Aesthetically, Roe says the choice of cladding was informed by

the need for “timeless architecture that shouldn’t date.” The centre refurbishment has seen increased retailer enquiries which in turn has led to a number of new leases, most notably a new 12,000-sq ft TopShop/TopMan trading over two floors at 20/21 Culver Walk and a new independent store selling Apple products at 7 Lion Walk. Headline rents have been maintained within the shopping

centre, which has bucked the general market trend and retailer enquiries have increased significantly, according to Lion Walk’s letting agent GCW. “More importantly retailers are trading very well,” says Roe,

“which is a testimony to the scheme’s success and footfall figures have also increased.”

And Roe makes it clear that the top priority was to maintain consumer spend and therefore keep retailers happy throughout the project, which meant scheduling a significant amount of work to take place outside trading hours. Plans are now being drawn up for a further phase of

refurbishment. This will extend the facade treatment onto other parts of the centre but one remaining building, housing O2 and the Co-Op among others, is in for more radical treatment. Because of low ceiling heights the upper floors are virtually unlettable, so the proposed solution is to demolish them to the first floor slab and then build two new floors designed to today’s institutional standards.

After “The construction costs were a relatively modest £1.4m, funded

almost exclusively by the new owners. However we believe that the environmental improvements are startling and place the entire investment on a sure footing for the next 30 years of its life,” concludes Roe. “Lion Walk has again become an asset that Colchester can be proud of.” And now Roe is looking to extend the design and project management approach to other ageing shopping centres. “All the signs are there’s going to be more of this happening in secondary centres,” he says. “We’re already looking at other centres of a similar vintage – there’s a lot of centres out there that are reaching an age where they’re in need of a bit of TLC.”

Find out more: For more information, please contact the author: July 2011 SHOPPING CENTRE

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