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23


ARMAGEDDON OR OPPORTUNITY?


AEW UK recently gave an economic briefing entitled: The High Street - Armageddon or Opportunity? We got the views of its Head of UK Asset Management, Rachel McIsaac, on where she thinks the High Street is headed.


R


achel McIsaac has oversight on around £1.8bn of UK assets at present. In terms of whether we’re facing retail ‘Armageddon or Opportunity’, she is a firm believer in the latter: “Our view of the High Street is that there are some really interesting


opportunities out there which could offer very good value for money to you.”


“As long as the net operating income is under control and issues like empty rates can be sorted, then many retail assets have real potential, particularly as many of these kinds of properties can have good embedded options for alternative use.”


She cites a 24,000 sq ft building in Chester, currently let to Argos and located on a prime pitch on Foregate Street. The lease had around five years left to run when the property was purchased by AEW. The retailer decided not to renew the lease, so a year before the lease expired, AEW applied for planning consent for change of use to a 46-bed hotel.


McIsaac reports: “That was warmly welcomed by the planners as they recognised that that end of the High Street was busy but obviously retail demand was diminishing there. As Chester already has a wide selection of shops they were happy to see a change of use there.”


AEW recently marketed the property, which is likely to see the ground floor converted to a restaurant with residential space (either a hotel or private apartments) created in the former Argos storeroom above.


Chester is a good example of how the fund manager is leading a process of change in town centre High Streets. A quick glance at the firm’s retail portfolio shows around 40 assets distributed across the UK, from small, individual units in Pontefract and Wolverhampton to sizeable


Armageddon or Opportunity?


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