The new Westfield shopping centre in Croydon will look like a Paris mall with offices and a hotel, according to its CEO.
Jean-Marie Tritant, the CEO of Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield (URW), said that the Covid-19 pandemic was the “final nail in the coffin” for the shopping centre building plans.
“Covid was the biggest stress test in the world. You saw online sales going through the roof, so Amazon opened more warehouses and hired more people. But what happened when we had the right to reopen? People came back. Now online sales are exactly where they would have been without Covid,” said Tritant in a Sunday Times interview.
Tritant is still adamant about rebuilding the Whitgift centre, but he now plans to redevelop it so it resembles URW’s shopping mall Les Ateliers Gaîté in Paris, rather than the other Westfield centres in London.
The shopping mall in the Montparnasse district of Paris includes offices, homes and a hotel with 1,000 rooms.
“If we were to redo Westfield London or Westfield Stratford today, we would integrate mixed uses even more. More of our new projects will be delivered with this vision,” said the CEO.
URW stated that it is re-evaluating its plans for Westfield London over three years ago, straying from its £1.5 billion shopping centre idea.
Tritant shares that the new vision for the Croydon shopping centre will be more entertainment-based, as opposed to purely focused on retail.
“The mistake is maybe not the size but the way we thought about it… we should have been thinking more of mixed-use. When you talk about entertainment in a mall today, it’s mainly cinemas. So, you need to bring other uses like eSports, gaming, virtual reality, immersive experiences… like virtual visits to the Pyramids.” said the URW boss.
The Westfield in Croydon is still a highly valuable asset to the URW group, however, recent high street shop failures have put it in a difficult situation.
The now-empty House of Fraser is planned to be redeveloped into a co-working space along with a health club and a roof-top restaurant. Debenhams in Croydon also shut its doors in 2020 and Tritant says that it will be turned into a venue offering entertainment and leisure facilities.
The company still has not released a possible date of when the new Westfield shopping centre will be finished.
Croydon Partnership is the group in charge that brings together Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield and Hammerson. A spokesperson for the partnership said: “The Croydon Partnership remains committed to Croydon and is currently working on a new approach for the regeneration of the town centre.
“We look forward to providing more detail about the vision in due course, and in the meantime, we will continue to support existing Centrale and Whitgift occupiers and customs.”
Croydon Mayor Jason Perry also confirmed that the URW group is planning to use already existing buildings in Croydon for its supermall idea instead of having one large shopping mall.
“Officers have been having regular meetings with Westfield,” said Mayor Perry.
He added: “They are putting together a master-planning team which is due to be ready any day now.
“That is going to be around understanding what people’s desires are going forward,” said the mayor.