Posts in Retail

Burger King drive-thru scheme starts on site at Centrepoint Retail Park, Aberdeen

June 6th, 2022 Posted by All, News, Retail

Urban Edge is delighted to announce that Muir Construction has started on site on a new 1800sq ft Burger King drive through unit at the popular Centrepoint Retail Park in Aberdeen. Urban Edge was appointed by RPMI as architect on the £800,000 project, which will also see the reconfiguration of the surrounding car park, taking the scheme from feasibility to planning and onwards to delivery and completion.

Explains Ian Townsend, Associate at Urban Edge: “Many retail park owners are now looking to diversify the range of attractions on their retail parks and drive through F&B retail is a very popular option. It’s great to be working alongside Muir Construction on the delivery of this important scheme and we’re delighted to see it start on-site. The addition of another well-known brand will support Centrepoint Retail Park’s continued viability as a retail and leisure destination and expand employment opportunities for local people during and after completion.”

The appearance and layout of this new Burger King drive through unit has been designed to reflect the brand’s identity and requirements. The exterior mixes cream composite panels that sit on a red brick plinth with timber effect panels that highlight the drive-through windows, as well as provide a background for the operator’s intended signage. Floor-to-ceiling aluminium glazing in the public-facing restaurant provides light and views both into and out of the unit.

“This scheme is the latest in a series of similar schemes we have carried out for well-known F&B retailers. The strong relationships we have forged over the years with all the major F&B operators has given us a deep understanding of their specification and brand requirements and means we can be incredibly efficient in how we deliver their schemes on sometimes challenging sites,” says Ian.

The site layout has been carefully designed with particular consideration given to ensure that any potential queues are contained within the retail park. The proposals have also been carefully planned to ensure that the development does not compromise Aberdeen City Council’s Berryden Corridor Improvement Scheme.

As part of the design, hard landscaping elements are to be softened with planted borders containing eight species of flowering shrubs, which will improve the biodiversity on the urban site, supporting local wildlife, in particular bee and bird populations.

Retail Park Refurbishment at Campbell's Meadow Retail Park

Start on site for retail park refurbishment at Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park

March 8th, 2022 Posted by All, News, Retail

We are overseeing the start on site of a façade upgrade and modernisation of five retail units at Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park, on the outskirts of historic King’s Lynn in Norfolk.

Whilst a popular retail destination, the units at Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park were starting to look tired and dated and required bringing up to current market expectations with a positive, modern look to improve the experience of customers at the site. Working with client Kames Capital, our team considered several options to create a new façade design that could be delivered within the client’s cost requirement, as well as responding to the market conditions and fulfilling the existing tenants’ needs.

It was also essential that the retail park remain fully operational and the design conceived to be delivered in such a way as to minimise disruption to existing tenants. Drawing on our extensive experience in the successful delivery and upgrade of retail schemes throughout the UK, we devised a ‘light touch’ solution that will be as unobtrusive as possible and allow tenants to keep trading throughout the works programme.

Our final design proposal changes the out-dated cladding for sleek, modern fire-safe composite panels, which will improve the thermal performance of the units as well as the aesthetics of the terrace as a whole. Bold, rectangular signage features emphasise the entrance to each unit and add visual prominence for the retailers from Hardwick Road.

The retail park refurbishment and modernisation has already created the opportunity to secure a national retailer tenant, their unit façade enhanced to provide a significant amount of additional glazing. It is hoped that the upgrade will continue to attract a more diverse retail mix, which will only increase the overall popularity of Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park.

Tom McNamara, Director, comments: “The retail sector is facing a range of challenges as it looks to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic. At Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park we have provided a cost-effective solution to enhance the user experience and create a safer and more welcoming environment that will help speed up the process of bringing footfall levels back up to normal. We are delighted to be working once more with Havercroft Construction in the delivery of this scheme and securing the long-term commercial viability of Campbell’s Meadow Retail Park.”

The retail park refurbishment starts on site on the 14th March 2022 with a 28-week programme of works. Be sure to check our website and social media regularly for updates.

Regeneration: Perspective and Vision

Regeneration: Perspective and Vision

November 22nd, 2021 Posted by All, Mixed-Use, Residential, Retail

Whilst seemingly taking a backseat during the pandemic, ‘levelling up’ appears to be firmly back on the Government’s agenda. The first winners of the Levelling Up Fund were unveiled by the Chancellor in the recent Autumn Budget, whilst the appointment of Michael Gove as Secretary of State for Levelling Up and head of the newly named Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities further cemented the Government’s intent.

Just prior to the pandemic, as part of its commitment to levelling up through area-based regeneration, the Government had launched its Towns Fund for England, a £3.6 billion fund to support local economic growth in ‘struggling’ towns across England. Funding for 101 towns was available, with bids for up to £25 million each on the table.

As part of that bidding process, we have been involved in drafting up a number of proposals with Local Authorities and have contributed towards formulating some ambitious bids. In particular we have been working in close collaboration with Boston District Council where we have been given the opportunity to implement some of our regeneration ideas in line with the council’s forward-thinking vision on a number of strategic sites within the town centre. Our achievement in Boston has led to further commissions elsewhere in Lincolnshire, gaining us invaluable experience in terms of the approach, local requirements and the complex mechanisms and quick turnaround timings involved.

Getting the ingredients right

Regeneration can take place in a multitude of ways. For built-environment professionals, such as architects, regeneration manifests itself through large-scale works; however it is important to understand that such works need to be implemented as part of a holistic approach, taking into account both social and economic needs. We know from experience that just creating attractive houses makes no difference to local people’s lives unless you also look at education, jobs and health. Quality of life, vibrant communities and a strong local economy are intrinsic to the levelling up agenda and the important ingredients for a successful housing market and sustainable recovery.

However, assembling these ingredients, presents a layer of complexity to regeneration schemes and means they tend to be completed over a long timeframe. They require careful planning and a considered programme to be put in place. Local Community participation is essential for success and failure to secure key pieces of the regeneration puzzle, as well as community buy-in, most often results in a wholesale redesign of the proposals, wasting valuable time and resources. From our experience, these discussions should start as soon as a framework emerges.

Even so, the short-term nature of the UK’s local or national electoral cycle can often disrupt local programming and established implementation agreements. The whole process can be reassessed or, in some cases, be discarded completely under a new leadership with a different set of priorities. In an ideal world, it would benefit everyone if regeneration programmes and national policy were devised with cross-party support to outlast governmental changes and mitigate disruption.

Public-private partnership

Land ownership is also an added complication to regeneration. The scale of the projects usually involves the need to utilise both public and private land. Purchasing private land is not always a simple process and often leads to unreasonable expectations by landlords as to the present development value of their land.

Tight and inflexible timescales for the delivery of some of the bid documents has been another considerable obstacle for many Local Authorities. Whilst underutilised public land is generally ideal for regeneration, years of austerity have weakened many councils’ capabilities to evaluate the development opportunities across their assets; the reality is that it can take considerable time for public land to be released for development, extending what is an already prolonged timeframe.

Likewise, some councils may not have the available resources to immediately form a team with enough experience to deliver large, complex regeneration schemes. This presents opportunities for the private sector to step in, and as our work on the Towns Fund bids for several local authorities has proven, we can work collaboratively with the public sector, using our expertise and knowledge to deliver quality and successful projects, with placemaking at their heart. That same knowledge could also be used to identify opportunities within the public estate and increase the volume of local authority sites being brought forward.

The evolution of the town centre

The shift to homeworking, coupled with the growth of internet shopping, throughout the recent coronavirus pandemic has seen some town centres left virtually empty, high street shops vacant and community cohesion fractured. In this regard, the pandemic has created an entirely new dimension to the ‘levelling up’ agenda. Such rapid and dramatic change to the structure of civic society has required those of us charged with town-centre revival to re-think our approaches, particularly the ability to generate footfall, activity and prospects for local people in places where opportunity was already thin on the ground.

First and foremost, high streets and town centres will need to evolve in response to these fresh changes in community demand. Where traditional high streets used to be entirely composed of retail, a shift towards a mix of uses is now required and could include everything from residential to workspace, leisure to healthcare, as well as community facilities. That’s not to say there’s no longer a place for retail. We believe there are still plenty of opportunities for physical retail to prosper – it’s just a case of landlords thinking differently about the spaces they own, and we are currently working with a number of clients to realise the opportunities to be had in converting or redeveloping existing assets into alternative uses.

Regeneration strategies also need to create critical population mass to sustain a multitude of uses and to allow existing and new businesses the opportunity to thrive; one way of enabling this would be to create more residential alongside the socio-economic infrastructure.

We believe that retirement living could partly fulfil this additional need and is frequently overlooked as a suitable use for town-centre living. Retirement Villages are often located on the outskirts of towns or rural locations, but there is increased demand from a new generation of senior citizens and retirees who want the opportunity to engage in the social and economic life of the wider community. They want to live in urban and suburban areas and continue to lead an independent lifestyle, maintain and build new friendships, participate in community activities.


The renewed focus on levelling up could not come at a more important time, as local communities struggle to deal with the long-term socio-economic impacts of the pandemic. Despite the fact that large-scale regeneration schemes can take years to get off the ground, they represent a clear and sustainable solution.

However, if we are to truly ‘level up’ the UK, regeneration strategies need to be carefully planned and successfully implemented to unlock investment, growth and the future prosperity of our local centres. This is our opportunity as architects to team up with Local Authorities and be part of an appropriate delivery mechanism set up to improve not only the built environment, but also to create genuine economic and employment opportunities, paving a brighter future for generations to come.

Alexandros Marcoulides | Associate Director

The Place, Milton Keynes

Right-sizing at the heart of Milton Keynes as next phase of retail refurb completes

November 18th, 2021 Posted by All, News, Retail

We were delighted to see Milton Keynes’ brand new Aldi store open its doors to customers this month, following a ribbon-cutting ceremony with Team GB bronze medalist Chris Langridge. The store’s opening marks the completion of the next phase of a £1.5million reconfiguration and refurbishment of The Place, a popular retail park destination in central Milton Keynes. Designed by our architectural team, the reconfigured scheme creates a balance of units more suitable for the current retail market, whilst improving access to a Starbucks drive-through and making it easier for cars to manoeuvre around the retail park.

Although a popular destination for shoppers, well-documented changes in consumer behaviour and the national retail picture had recently seen three out of the five A1 units at The Place become vacant and the retail terrace itself start to become dated. Appointed by retail park asset manager Quadrant Estates for full Architectural and Principal Designer services, we have reconfigured the scheme to combine three units to create a circa 20,700 sq.ft space, large enough to successfully land Aldi as a new anchor store at the southern end of the scheme, and subdivided another into two circa 4,900 sq.ft units, one to be occupied by American Golf who have relocated from their existing unit.

Explains Tom McNamara, Director: “Even before the current pandemic, bricks and mortar retail had been through a number of significant changes in recent years. Traditional retail park layouts and the size of units need to be challenged, but with often tight budgets it takes extensive retail property experience to consider every aspect whilst taking on board both client and incoming tenant requirements to make a retail park attractive. We are seeing more and more retail terraces with unit sizes that are just wrong for the current market and that don’t match tenants’ needs. At The Place, we’ve combined three units to make a single new anchor store and sub-divided another for smaller retailers who want less floorspace. In doing so, we have created the opportunity for the park to successfully secure a new food retail anchor tenant and attract a more diverse retail mix, which will only increase the popularity of this retail park.”

In addition to improving the layout and unit sizes, we have used simple, but high-quality architectural interventions to give the whole terrace façade, now containing four units, a facelift. The existing blue canopy and shopfront have been removed, whilst professionally recoating the existing cladding panels in white and shades of grey, along with new glazed entrance screens and projecting canopies, has given a strong horizontal emphasis that creates a simple, unobtrusive line tying all the units seamlessly together.

Our redesign has also seen the car park reconfigured to add more spaces closer to the new Aldi unit for the convenience of their shoppers. Pedestrian pathways directly adjacent to the entrance have been extended to accommodate a trolley bay and safe pedestrian passage. Delivery areas behind the terrace have been re-worked to make the logistics easier and quicker for staff. As part of the reconfigured scheme, the drive-through lane of the popular Starbucks pod has been extended to minimise traffic congestion, along with amendments to car parking and planting and signage for the Starbucks unit itself.

“Ease of use is not always talked about in design terms, perhaps because it doesn’t always have quite the same ‘wow factor’ – but we know that getting the infrastructure right and making it easy to move around the retail park is vital for both tenants, their customers and the long-term viability of a scheme” explains Tom. “We are delighted to see work completed on this next phase of The Place and, with Aldi now opening its doors in our reconfigured space, the scheme is sure to remain a popular retail destination into the future.”

The fast lane to drive-through success

The fast lane to drive-through success

October 28th, 2021 Posted by All, Food, Retail

The drive-through is one of the hottest retail property assets in the UK right now, with food and drink-to-go businesses facing fierce competition for sites in a sector that has been supercharged by the impact of the global pandemic.

When KFC reopened several of its UK branches as drive-through only shortly after the first Covid-19 lockdown in May last year, the resulting tailback of cars made national headlines. According to recent data by global information company The NPD Group, Brits made 121 million visits to drive-throughs between September and November 2020, a 14% increase on the same period last year. Spend was up 45% to £723m over this time frame, with consumers tending to place larger-than-average orders at the drive-through window.

Whilst much of the accelerated growth in drive-throughs can be linked to the Coronavirus pandemic and people feeling safer and more secure in their cars, the range of new operators entering the UK drive-through market – as well as more established F&B outlets looking to make drive-through a key component of their portfolios – and battling it out for prime locations suggests the sector will remain strong beyond the current health crisis. Indeed, the number of drive-through enquiries received by Urban Edge in recent months has been unprecedented.

Even before the pandemic, we were seeing owners and operators of retail parks responding to the impacts of ecommerce and declining footfalls by bringing in more F&B and increasing leisure attractions. Sold on the idea that they are fairly easy and fast to build, landlords with redundant space or large, empty car parks can find the concept of creating drive-through or drive-to experiences appealing to enhance the attractiveness of their parks and turn them into thriving destinations.

However, the road to drive-through success is not always that straightforward and takes experience and technical know-how to deliver.

On-site challenges

For starters, many standalone restaurant and retail units in the UK weren’t originally conceived with the drive-through in mind; to try and maximise car park space, they’re often hard up in the corner of sites resulting in minimal room around them to site a drive-through lane. They can frequently be surrounded by mature trees and other topography that’s very difficult to negotiate, whilst no-build zones that sometimes tesselate across a large car park can leave limited space for development and necessitate challenging and complex works to retrofit the drive-through lane.

Another challenge, particularly for new build, is that owners often want to locate their drive-through offer in an underused, satellite area of the car park. Unfortunately, these sites tend to be a significant distance away from existing utilities infrastructure and the added costs of introducing power and water to a restaurant unit can dampen the economic viability of a scheme.

Regardless, if car park space is available and until the market is completely saturated, there are always going to be owners looking at restaurant space options for their assets. To deliver operationally viable restaurant schemes on difficult areas of car park requires knowledge and experience, as well as inventive thinking.

To secure prime sites and gain a foothold in this competitive market, owners and operators need to think quickly and innovatively. We’ve been fortunate to work with many forward-thinking businesses and it’s amazing what they’re willing to consider and what we’ve been able to achieve, whether relocating site entrances, moving half the restaurant around internally or incorporating a drive-through at the end of a small terrace of units. On a few tightly constrained sites, we’ve even looked to incorporate a drive-through to a multi-storey mixed-used development by demolishing parts of the building to allow for drive-through lanes to wrap around the perimeters of existing units. Some of the bigger operators are also considering double-storey height restaurants to facilitate the occupation of a tight footprint.

Securing successful delivery

Experience of the sector and the requirements of the major operators counts for a lot when successfully delivering these schemes. As one of the UK’s foremost out-of-town retail specialists, we have been working with owners, developers and operators of retail assets for a good number of years, reviewing portfolios of development and advising on the opportunities that exist to integrate asset classes and maximise the value of their sites.

Our experience in drive-throughs dates back to the very beginning of the business when we undertook a large portfolio review of 60 Little Chef sites with a view to converting several to Burger King drive-throughs just before the 2008 recession. We started getting our first enquiries for coffee pods in 2011 and since then have built around 11 drive-throughs and 9 drive-tos for a number of well-known brands, with another three to start on site imminently and approximately 10 currently in various stages of design.

In the immediate term, as retail looks to bounce back from the impact of successive lockdowns, owners and operators of retail destinations will be weighing up drive-through and drive-to as a means to bring in more customers and raise their scheme’s footfall levels back to pre-pandemic levels. Longer term, we anticipate the drive-through trend to continue, with more retail locations increasing the level of F&B and leisure offers to remain competitive.

Aided by technological advances and a greater reliance on online or mobile ordering, we also anticipate the scope of drive-through to evolve. Curry’s pilot zero-contact drive-through order and collect took more than 55,000 orders in its first three weeks of operation and perhaps points to a future where even non-F&B retail will feature some a drive-up and collect element as part of its portfolio. Owners and developers therefore need to not only be flexible, but also think creatively about their assets, perhaps looking to combine multiple drive-through offerings, such as drive-in entertainment with drive-through food and other click-and-collect or pick-up services.

And then there’s the potential impact of electric vehicle take-up. Recent figures published by the Department for Transport revealed ‘alternatively fuelled’ car registrations overtook diesels for the first time in 2020 and, as the Government pursues its ambition to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030, interest in chargepoint infrastructure in prime locations will continue to grow. Unsurprisingly, a number of the foresighted landlords with whom we work are already exploring the relationship between rapid electric car-charging facilities to drive-through and F&B retail.

Whatever the future may hold, owners and developers need expert advice to make the right decisions, maximise the value of their assets and secure a long-term future for their sites.

This is an extended version of an article that first appeared in Property Week on the 28th October 2021.

Dave Frost | Senior Associate Director

A Brighter Future For Retail Parks Feature Img

A brighter future for retail parks

October 16th, 2019 Posted by All, Retail

The Government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s interim report grabbed headlines recently with its call for retail parks and large supermarkets to be redeveloped into mixed-use communities. A month earlier, LDC data suggested vacancy rates across UK retail parks had risen sharply between the first half of 2018 and the end of the first quarter of this year. Reading all of this, one might conclude that the time of the retail park is nigh.

Dig deeper beneath the headlines, however, and it seems the death of the retail park has been greatly exaggerated. The LDC data, for instance, also reveals that some brands are actually starting to increase their retail park presence. Our own experience, having recently completed four new build retail park projects and with a number of new sites at planning and pre-planning stages, also suggests that the death of the retail park has been greatly exaggerated. We have also been appointed to several retail park facelifts where landlords are looking to improve and enhance their assets, preferring to retain and attract retail tenants rather than repurpose for alternative use.

Of course there may well be a compelling case for change of use in London and other major cities where demand for housing and residential values are at their highest, but change of use may not suit all landlords. For some, the prospect of getting a retailer in on a long lease may still be more attractive than redevelopment.

We recently met with a landlord client just outside central London, whose 1980s-era one-storey retail park was located in an area surrounded by multi-storey, mixed-use redevelopment. The client had fully planned on going down the same route with their site, but an analysis of the costs and a recent dip in the London resi market suggested that a comprehensive refurbishment and re-let to existing tenants would produce more of a return over five to ten years than an enormous multi-million-pound mixed-use development. So it’s clearly not always the case that one size fits all.

Retail park landlords do need to be mindful, however, that in areas of oversupply there will inevitably be winners and losers. As the retail park reinvents itself to suit the 21st century requirements of both tenant and customer, owners of outdated or inadequate retail park assets risk being left behind and losing tenants to better designed, competing sites.

The good news for landlords is that there are plenty of clever solutions that can deliver an impactful uplift, even within the financial constraints they find themselves under. However, there are often challenges above and beyond budget, particularly in relation to third party and tenant agreements. Our experience tells us that landlords often seriously underestimate the time it will take to negotiate with existing tenants. Early engagement is essential; otherwise potentially great schemes cannot be successfully delivered and can often result in schemes with ‘holes’ where tenant and landlord have failed to reach agreement.

Part of our role as architects is trying to help the landlord with those discussions and selling the benefits to tenants. But what are the essential ingredients for a successful 21st century retail park?

Firstly, the out-of-town retail model is becoming more experiential. For retail parks to truly distinguish themselves as a destination, this might mean landlords considering a greater integration of asset classes to emulate successful town centres and increase dwell time – coffee, food, playgrounds and crèches, gyms and climbing walls, flexible space for pop-up parks and pop-up food are all elements that now distinguish a quality retail park. We are also seeing an increase in interest in double-sided shopping, where the retail element of the park is completely pedestrianised and devoid of cars.

Parks that focus on creating a high-quality environment within their public realm are also likely to prove an attractive prospect. Unattractive public realm merely becomes a route from A to B or best avoided entirely. Well-conceived and attractive public realm, on the other hand, will encourage people to use the space, prompt lingering presence, resulting in better sales, client satisfaction and repeat business.

Landlords may also need to consider providing alternative travel choices for both tenants and customers whilst also futureproofing for electric cars by including charging points.

All of these measures clearly involve thinking about the bigger picture and serious investment, not merely replacing the glazing and re-painting the cladding. However, we believe that there are still plenty of long-term opportunities for those landlords with well-located sites to create viable and popular retail park destinations with the ability to retain existing and attract new tenants.

This is an extended version of an article that first appeared in Property Week on the 27th September 2019.

Tom McNamara | Director

Parliamentary Review 2019 - Retail Experts

The expert view on the retail sector

October 15th, 2019 Posted by All, Retail

Recent years have proved challenging for the retail sector, but at Urban Edge we firmly believe that change brings opportunity and find ourselves called upon to provide innovative solutions for our retail property clients. We have also seen our influence growing in the sector, with our retail experts invited to share their in-depth knowledge within a number of influential forums and journals.

Earlier this year, the Parliamentary Review editorial committee identified Urban Edge as an outstanding leader in its field and Director Russell Gay was invited by former Conservative Communities Secretary Lord Pickles to contribute to the Review’s 2019 edition. The Parliamentary Review is an esteemed annual journal that shares best practice amongst policy makers and business leaders.

Russell took the opportunity to highlight the continuing plight of the UK’s high streets and how, as the crisis has grown, our skills have become much sought after by developers and property owners looking to repurpose retail assets.

Writing in the Parliamentary Review, Russell says: “We have been urging retail property owners to forward plan to minimise the possible impact on their assets as much as possible. At Urban Edge we believe there are still plenty of opportunities for physical retail to prosper – it’s just a case of landlords thinking differently about the spaces they own, especially the opportunities to be had in converting or redeveloping existing assets into alternative uses.”

We have been working with forward-thinking owners and developers to adapt their existing assets for a good number of years, using our experience and good technical know-how to make the appropriate decisions for each scheme. A good example can be seen at Highcross in Leicester where, following the closure of the House of Fraser store in July 2017, we worked with Hammerson to develop proposals for the sub-division and remodelling of the vacated four-storey retail unit, reactivating high street façades and creating new revenue streams for the client from areas of the building considered to be ‘dead space’.

Our experience on this and other such projects, has now led us to examine similar schemes for clients and look at repurposing existing units for other complementary uses such as offices, hotels or even retirement housing.

Of course, we also understand that change of use may not suit all landlords. For some, the prospect of getting a retailer in on a long lease may still be more attractive than redevelopment. This is particularly true for ‘out-of-town’ retail, a sector that continues to prove resilient despite the changes impacting the high street – however retail park landlords need to act early to reap the benefits from well-located sites.

Writing in the September 27th issue of Property Week, Urban Edge Director Tom McNamara said: “Retail park landlords do need to be mindful that most major towns now have an oversupply and there will inevitably be winners and losers. As the retail park reinvents itself to suit the 21st century requirements of both tenant and customer, owners of outdated or inadequate retail park assets risk being left behind and losing tenants to better designed, competing sites.”

“Landlords need to think about the bigger picture and serious investment, not merely replacing the glazing and re-painting the cladding. For retail parks to truly distinguish themselves as a destination, this might mean landlords considering a greater integration of asset classes to emulate successful town centres and increase dwell time – coffee, food, playgrounds and crèches, gyms and climbing walls, flexible space for pop-up parks and pop-up food are all elements that can now distinguish a quality retail park.”

Russell has now been invited to attend a high-level event at the House of Commons in late October where he will be raising some of these issues with parliamentarians, policymakers and other senior business leaders.

You can read Russell’s full Parliamentary Review article by clicking here.

Accessible Retail Conference 2019

We’ll be talking sustainability at this year’s Accessible Retail Conference

October 4th, 2019 Posted by All, News, Retail

Senior Associate Director Dave Frost will be speaking at this year’s Accessible Retail Conference, the trade body which represents the property interests of the retail warehouse and retail park sector of the retail industry. Held at the Royal Institution of Great Britain in central London on the 10th October, and attended by some of the key influencers and decision makers in the sector, the theme of this year’s conference is Sustainable Partnerships.

Dave, who takes to the stage at 10.30am, will be discussing how we delivered Nando’s ‘next generation’ restaurant at Cambridge Retail Park – the chain’s most sustainable restaurant ever. Utilising ‘One Planet Living’ principles, the restaurant was designed to be extremely energy efficient, generate its own electricity and use waste heat from cooking for space heating. Material specification prioritised low-impact elements, fittings and furniture.

“Nando’s wanted to implement new sustainability principles and we produced a design that integrated this philosophy while complementing the existing retail park environment where the restaurant is located,” says Dave. “It presented an opportunity for us to build a restaurant using clean and sustainable materials, better design processes that reduced carbon impact and with technologies to operate the restaurant more efficiently. This pioneering development was an incredible journey for both Nando’s and Urban Edge and I look forward to recounting that journey and the learnings that came out of it with the Conference audience.”

Further details on this year’s Accessible Retail Conference can be found here.

Clock Tower Retail Park, Chelmsford

Making good time at Clock Tower Retail Park

September 19th, 2019 Posted by All, Retail

The opening of several major stores and food and beverage outlets at Clock Tower Retail Park in Chelmsford, including Aldi, Furniture Village, DFS, Tapi and Costa, marked a significant moment in the life of a site once occupied by the Britvic soft drinks factory. When the Marks & Spencer Foodhall officially opened there in November 2017, the local press were on-hand to report how ‘customers streamed through the doors after a year of hard work to bring the disused site, off Westway, back to life.’

Just over 18 months on from that opening, we returned to Clock Tower Retail Park to see how our design for the scheme was performing and gather some opinion from the current tenants.

We were originally asked to develop proposals for this brand new retail park at Westway, Chelmsford for our client Aberdeen Standard Investments and Exton Estates. The location for the park proved to be very interesting, sitting as it did on the site of the former Britvic soft drinks factory. Opened in 1955, the factory had been a huge employer in Chelmsford and at its height was bottling 13 million soft drinks a year. It was therefore important that the design acknowledged the site’s history.

A decision was made to replicate the factory’s iconic clock tower that had been a popular local landmark on the city skyline and from which the retail park now takes its name. The new tower features unique lighting designed to mimic the bubbles in a fizzy drink; they are illuminated and rise up the tower on the hour. Looking at it now, it’s immensely gratifying to see how the new clock tower has become as iconic as the original and, importantly, how it acts as a beacon for the retail park itself.

It’s equally satisfying to see that the crisp contemporary retail architecture featuring a simple and refined pallet of materials including glass, brick and dark metal cladding, is performing well. It’s interesting also to reflect on how the design has proved to be highly on-trend – for instance some elements of the façade incorporated design features which are currently very in vogue, such as the unique signature laser-cut signage cube to the M&S unit which incorporates an organic perforated design and bookends the retail terrace. It looks great day and night and we’re now installing a similar system on a façade enhancement scheme in York.

Likewise, it’s pleasing to see how our choice of cladding for the Costa unit at the front of the park picks up on the current trend for brassy tones. In seeking an alternative to cor-ten steel, we found a similar product with brassy-orangey tones – not only did this turn out be a lot more cost effective but it’s also proving to require a lot less maintenance as well. Looking at how this has performed in Chelmsford, we’re now proposing to use it elsewhere.

More importantly for us, however, is seeing and hearing that that the park is trading well and tenants are happy. Speaking to the store managers, the overwhelming impression we get is that the car park is always very busy, even during the daytime, and that the stores are trading well in comparison with other nearby facilities. Tenants attributed this success to the great visibility of the stores from the main highway approach and from the car park areas.

The clock tower helps, of course, because it clearly advertises the retail park. However, the park is also an ‘L-shaped’ format and we designed it so that every unit faces the road. In all of our retail park projects we try to get the signage as tall as possible so that it’s visible – admittedly, this is not always the preference for the planners, but at Clock Tower Retail Park we were able to project the parapet line, not only to break down the mass, but also allowing us to push up the signage and giving it more prominence from the road. From the tenant feedback, this decision is paying dividends and clearly works well for trading.

Of course there are always things that, on reflection, one might do differently, for instance wider paving or the inclusion of more amenities and events spaces, but overall Clock Tower Retail Park has turned out to be a very successful project, bringing big-name brands and employment to the local area.

Arguably, most major towns in the UK now have an overcapacity of retail parks and, in the current retail climate, only the very best will survive. In carefully considering its design to ensure quality and endurable finishes, well-conceived high-quality public realm and a greater visibility than all the other retail parks in the area, Clock Tower Retail Park was able to attract anchor tenants Aldi at one end and M&S at the other, alongside Furniture Village, DFS and Tapi Carpets amongst others. That fact alone is a statement, proving that it is the best park in the area and, from the perspective of both a design and tenant mix, guarantees it a successful future.

You can read more about this project in our portfolio.

Retail World

New units improve offer at Retail World

August 23rd, 2019 Posted by All, Leisure, Retail

We have recently delivered five new retail units, totalling 12,223 sq.ft at the popular Retail World near Gateshead. The project contains a mix of retail and food and drink units with external seating areas, alterations to existing car parking and landscaping.

Our design reflects the area’s strong mining and manufacturing heritage. Powder-coated composite panels, resembling the rusted steel of the nearby Angel of the North. The intention is to create an aged industrial feel to contrast the extensive modern glazing and aluminium framed glazed shopfronts. A glazed canopy projects slightly from the units fronting the pedestrian link, providing both an elegant and unifying finish to the units and offers a partial shelter to pedestrians and users of the external seating area.

The new terrace is situated in a prominent location, directly on the site entrance, the design fits coherently within site as a whole. Its frontages establish a relationship with the units already within the retail park, giving a sense of enclosure and cohesiveness to the space generally. The distances within the retail park are quite vast in pedestrian terms and the new units create a ‘respite island’, reducing the perceived distances and adding more interest and variety for the public.

Josh Rowley, Associate Director says: “The withdrawal of one of the previous anchor tenants from the original line-up, gave us the opportunity to redesign the terrace, increasing the number of proposed units and enhance the park’s retail offer without impacting the existing tenants.”

Creating a pedestrian-friendly space where people would be happy to spend quality time, was an important factor in our design. Around the new terrace, a number of fixed benches are set between ‘rain gardens’ and trees in tree grills which together will partially screen and give a softer edge to the development. The rain gardens contain wetland grasses and perennials beds which will contribute towards surface water attenuation.

In addition to reconfiguring the existing car parking to maintain the overall number of parking spaces, a key pedestrian route was developed to improve links across the site. This pedestrian pathway is a bold and highly legible feature, lined by columnar Hornbeam trees. A row of lower flowering Dogwood trees provide a splash of colour and a more intimate scale, creating a physical barrier but allowing views through to the retail park beyond. Careful siting of this route will make it possible, in the future, to link through to the Minories site, part of a wider masterplan.

Concludes Josh Rowley: “Our client, Gateshead Retail World, Team Valley, handed the units over to the tenants in February and they are already home to recognisable names such as Card Factory, O2, Bells Fish & Chips and Costa, plus another planned fast food operator. The modern aesthetic of the terrace, plus the pedestrian friendly landscaping and the strong mix of retailers will add significantly to the park’s offer and improve dwell times.”

You can read more about this project in our portfolio.

Costa, Heanor

Bespoke Costa completes at Heanor

July 30th, 2019 Posted by All, Leisure, Retail

In our first project delivered for client CBRE Global Investors, we were tasked with selecting a site and developing a bespoke design for a new c£600k Costa pod at the popular Heanor Retail Park in Derbyshire.

The team’s first task was to carefully select the site to give the 1,840 sq.ft unit prominence, but without negatively impacting the sight lines to the existing retail terrace. Having chosen a plot situated on the A6007, one of the main arterial routes through the centre of town, our design had to create an individual contemporary drive-to unit that fitted in with the feel of the Costa brand but was bespoke to the site.

We worked beyond the standard Costa design, with its mono-pitch roof and white render/timber façades, and created a modern minimalist design to give the unit its own identity. The quality of the materials used were a key aspect of the finished unit, with the external façade being a mixture of reconstituted stone cladding, cedar cladding and aluminium cladding in dark red to tie in with the Costa brand identity. The addition of an extended canopy along the front elevation offers a semi-covered area for the external seating.

Director, Tom McNamara said: “We think our Costa pod is a real asset to the park, serving the existing customers well and hopefully increasing dwell time. Feedback from the Costa staff is that the unit is trading better than expected, and the reviews on the coffee shop’s Facebook page have been very complimentary.”

Gateway Retail Park, Lowestoft

The most easterly town in the UK welcomes brand new Gateway Retail Park

May 21st, 2019 Posted by All, Retail

We are celebrating the realisation of our £7 million new build retail park on Tower Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk. Gateway Retail Park was completed on the 2nd May 2019, with the tenants now starting to fit out. The circa 70,000 sq.ft development marks a substantial investment in the region, as well as turning a redundant brownfield site into an impressive new gateway for the town.

Anchored by Aldi and The Range, the scheme includes a new retail terrace, coffee drive-through and a mixed retail and restaurant unit, complete with a remodelled site access, car parking and hard and soft landscaping. We were pleased to work with TPS Development and Project Managers on behalf of our client Freshwater Group, to create a contemporary response to the requirements of modern out-of-town retailers, including such names as Costa, Greggs, Subway and Card Factory.

Director, Tom McNamara said: “We are excited to see our design finally completed. It has been a long journey – with the original planning being granted in December 2015 – but the finished development is a quality new retail destination that will boost Lowestoft’s economy and offer good local employment opportunities, as well as creating a positive first view of the town from the south.”


Mark Newton, Director at TPS, adds: “It’s great to see Gateway Retail Park finally completed for our client Freshwater Group. It’s a great testament to the team involved who have worked hard to deliver this new retail facility. It’s been great to track the scheme’s progress through the time-lapse camera Stainforth Construction provided. The retail units are currently being fitted out with the first units opening within the next few weeks. The retail park was 75% pre-let prior to completion and we are pleased to announce that the remaining 15,000 sq.ft is now under offer and will introduce some new brands to Lowestoft.”

The design puts emphasis on the integration of this new development into the wider area and creates a strong link between the existing retail and commercial uses to the south of the site. Stylish design and quality flows through into the public realm with the provision of an attractive landscape, with a variety of native trees and shrubs adding visual interest for customers.

Highcross, Leicester - Repurposing the High Street

Retail therapy – Why repurposing the High Street is the key to a brighter future

November 15th, 2018 Posted by All, Retail

It seems that not a week goes by without news of another casualty on the UK High Street. The perfect storm of high business rates, lack of consumer confidence and the exponential growth of eCommerce has this year already seen the likes of Toys R Us and House of Fraser fall into administration, whilst Marks & Spencer, Mothercare and Debenhams have all announced significant programmes of store closures. The Chancellor’s recently announced reforms to business rates may offer some relief to smaller retailers, but for large High Street retail chains the changes offer little additional comfort.

The risk of further High Street failures and more retailers entering into CVAs poses a serious threat to retail property owners – a threat starkly illustrated in October this year when the Nicholson Shopping Centre in Maidenhead went into receivership. According to retail analyst Nelson Blackley, from the National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre, more than 200 shopping centres across the UK are now in danger of falling into administration as major anchor stores decline. Blackley points to the unexpected collapse of BHS two years ago, catching landlords off-guard and leaving large, empty units in around 200 shopping centres, with more than half of those empty units still not yet filled.

In this climate of declining rental income, falling values and potential store closures, retail property owners need to urgently forward plan to minimise the possible impact on their assets as much as possible. Despite the negative headlines, there are still plenty of opportunities for physical retail to prosper – it’s just a case of landlords thinking differently about the spaces they own. As more retailers seek to reduce the space they occupy and the rents they pay, carving up large retail floorplates into smaller, more flexible units is an immediate option for landlords looking to fill vacant space.

However, there are also opportunities to be had in converting or redeveloping existing assets into alternative uses. In fact, evidence seems to suggest that mixed-use schemes will not only add value to landlords’ assets, but could also be the key to town centre salvation. According to recommendations in the Grimsey Review 2 earlier this year, town centres could be reinvigorated by placing less focus on retail to underpin the High Street and instead focusing on alternatives such as housing, leisure, entertainment, education and commercial office space.

For landlords looking to adapt their assets for alternative uses there are, of course, many hurdles to be overcome – not least of which is the fact that many existing shopping centres, retail parks or town centre high streets weren’t conceived with future flexibility in mind. When department stores were designed 30 or 40 years ago, for instance, little thought was given to their future adaptability, as it was probably believed that the like of House of Fraser or British Homes Stores would be there forever. Architects looking to remodel these assets into something fit for modern purpose are faced with a number of challenges: department stores are often self-contained units with footprints and orientations that do not lend themselves to easy reconfiguration; they often have deep footprints with small frontages limiting the opportunities for sub-division into sensible units; large inactive façades create dead areas within a town centre or shopping centre context and they are often well integrated into town centres or shopping centres meaning reconfiguration can impact on other essential infrastructure.

Whilst challenging, none of these issues are insurmountable; it just takes experience and good technical know-how to make the appropriate decisions for each individual scheme, balancing tenant needs against costs to landlords. At Urban Edge, we have been working with forward-thinking owners and developers to adapt their existing assets for a good number of years. A good example of ‘repurposing the High Street’ can be seen at Highcross in Leicester where, following the closure of the House of Fraser store in July 2017, we worked with Hammerson to develop proposals for the sub-division and remodelling of the vacated four-storey retail unit.

Our scheme has reconfigured the existing floor space into a mix of retail, leisure and food and drink units. Internally a new large-format retail unit was created for existing centre occupier Zara to relocate into, whilst lower ground floorspace was used to increase JD Sports’ existing unit to just over double its size. Meanwhile, new outward-looking food and drink units reactivate the Shires Lane and High Street façades.

A great example of how lateral thinking can maximise a client’s asset can be seen on the upper floor of the building. This was initially considered to be ‘dead space’ as there was no retail tenant demand for this floorspace, it lacked connectivity to the mall for leisure use, and was deemed unsuitable for office or hotel use due to its deep floorplates. It was, however, connected to the existing car park and our recommendation was to extend the car park into it, immediately adding value for the client who will be shortly benefiting from the additional income from those parking spaces, particularly during the busy periods.

Our design for Highcross also strengthens the link between the centre’s busy St Peter’s Square and Leicester’s High Street, with users drawn between the two by the architecture and activity created by new offers. The new façade units take references from the centre’s existing architecture and materials, maximising visibility into the shopfronts.

Our experience on this and other such projects, has now led us to examine similar schemes for clients and look at repurposing existing units for other complementary uses such as offices or hotels. In some instances, we are also exploring air rights developments, building on top of existing assets such as department stores or car parks to accommodate offices or residential. We are also working with clients and local authority planners to change policy and help promote the future of high streets and shopping centres.

It is clear that recent years have seen a revolution in the way that we shop – and those changes will continue to impact the retail property sector for the foreseeable future. Given the pace of change and the threats posed to retail centres by CVAs and major store closures, quick decisions are now required by landlords on how best to re-purpose their assets and design in future flexibility to weather the choppy waters of the retail environment. Our experience working with forward-planning and open-thinking clients tells us that the threats posed can be mitigated and, importantly, new opportunities can be created. Cause, we think, for great optimism.

Darren Hodgson | Associate Director

Glencairn Retail Park, Kilmarnock

Additional 75,000 sq.ft of retail for Kilmarnock

March 17th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: Savills Investment Management
Total retail accommodation: 100,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 600 (approx)
Development budget: £5,000,000

We have recently been commissioned to develop proposals at Glencairn Retail Park, Kilmarnock for an additional 75,000 sq.ft of retail floor space adjacent to the existing retail terrace (phase II) incorporating a number of new retail units, together with pod units and a drive-through unit at the main entrance of the site (phase III).

We have been specifically instructed by the client to maximise the potential lettable area and enhance the parking, landscaping and public realm to deliver a ‘destination’ scheme. Careful consideration has been given to ensuring both existing and proposed developments continue the same visual appearance in terms of façades/entrances and maintain continuity of trade to tenants whilst works are underway.

St Andrew's Shopping Park, Birmingham

Sub-division of former ‘Woolies’ in Birmingham

March 14th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: BMW (UK) Trustees Limited
Total retail accommodation: 85,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 550 (approx)
Development budget: £2,800,000

Following the demise of Woolworths this 85,000 sq.ft unit, located directly opposite Birmingham City Football Club, was vacated in January 2009. Following our instruction we gained planning approval for sub-division into seven smaller units in early May. An internalised undercover service area at the rear was provided to allow the units to be serviced away from the main public highway – a condition critical to the Local Planning Authority.

The building was given a complete facelift with new entrance feature canopies to highlight the unit entrances and new totem towers to give the park an increased street presence. Several national High Street retailers now trade from this new shopping park environment.

St Anns Shopping Centre, Harrow

Reaching potential at St Anns in Harrow

March 14th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: Orchard Street Investment Management
Total retail accommodation: 225,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 900 (approx)
Development budget: Confidential

We were appointed by Orchard Street Investment Management to look at various asset management opportunities at St Anns Shopping Centre. St Anns is located opposite Harrow on the Hill station and is home to over 40 High Street brands including H&M, Primark, M&S, Schuh and Tiger along with a dedicated food court on the first floor, and is within easy reach of bus and train connections from central London. The shopping centre also boasts secure parking for over 900 vehicles.

These opportunities included reconfiguring and maximising the internal space in a large retail unit on behalf of H&M, who opened for business in November 2012. We have also looked at a number of proposals to improve the entrances, signage, toilet facilities and the flooring throughout the mall with many of these initiatives still ongoing.

Tritton Retail Park, Lincoln

Sub-division of Comet unit at Tritton Retail Park

March 13th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: LaSalle Investment Management
Total retail accommodation: 125,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 200 (approx)
Development budget: £1,000,000

Acting on behalf of LaSalle Investment Management we are heavily involved in ongoing asset management initiatives at this highly visible retail park located on Tritton Road, approximately two miles from Lincoln city centre. Together with the agents we are also exploring refurbishment options for new entrances and façade treatments as well as a potential reconfiguration of the Currys unit.

We have also recently delivered the sub-division of the former Comet unit into two smaller units for Homesense (12,000 sq.ft) and Oak Furniture Land (8,000 sq.ft). These units were opened in August 2014 and are both trading successfully.

Enfield Retail Park, North London

Asset management at Enfield Retail Park

March 13th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited
Total retail accommodation: 150,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 600 (approx)
Development budget: £5,000,000

Universities Superannuation Scheme acquired this very successful 150,000 sq.ft retail park which lies directly adjacent the A10 in Enfield, North London. We were appointed to pursue various short, mid and long term asset management strategies they have for the park.

The first tranche of works involved the extension and sub-division of an existing retail unit including over cladding and introduction of a new entrance feature.

The second phase of work focused on the remodelling of the remaining retail terrace, upgrading the existing unit façades and rolling out new signage features and cladding principles as introduced in phase I to introduce consistency and identity throughout the park.

Finally, we were instructed to deliver a pod unit, situated to the south of the main retail terrace, comprising accommodation for three retailers. The scheme received planning approval in October 2013 and the units were handed over late 2014.

Croft Retail and Leisure Park, Bromborough

Initiatives at The Croft Retail & Leisure Park

March 13th, 2017 Posted by All, Retail

Client: Universities Superannuation Scheme Limited
Total retail accommodation: 450,000 sq.ft
Parking spaces: 1,200 (approx)
Development budget: £10,000,000 (phased)

The Croft Retail and Leisure Park is conveniently located on the Wirral peninsula, just off the A41 New Chester Road, Bromborough, four miles south of Birkenhead town centre. This 450,000 sq.ft retail and leisure park is a hugely popular destination for local shoppers.

We have been involved in the long term strategic asset management and development of the park for a number of years, delivering a wide range of remodelling projects across the development. Ongoing works currently include:

  • Strip units G/H and J back to the external shell (including all existing fixtures and fittings), recladding of the front elevation and all associated shopfront works
  • Development of proposals for land to the south of the retail park. Current plans include four new retail units totalling approximately 55,000 sq.ft, two new pod units and parking provision for 300 vehicles