Shopping centre giants Westfield have thrown down the gauntlet to rivals Hammerson promising to invest £1 billion redeveloping the Whitgift Centre.
At a strategic planning meeting last night John Burton, director of development at Westfield said the company could transform the face of Croydon, create up to 4,000 new jobs and create a legacy that would restore the town as one of London’s retail hubs.
During a 20 minute presentation the Australian company said they would demolish the centre to create a cinema, bowling alley and 125,000 sqm of retail space, designed around two new pedestrian walkways linking North End and Wellesley Road and Poplar Walk and St George Street.
Architect Bob Allies, from Allies and Morrison, said Westfield’s plan would also include four residential towers along Wellesley Road, the highest reaching 160 metres tall, and car parking along the top level of the new layout, which centres the retail around a central open air crossroads.
Mr Burton said: “Our plan will change the face of Croydon. Westfield and the Whitgift Foundation are totally committed to develop this at the earliest possible opportunity. Our investment in Stratford City was set against the back drop of the global recession. Our track record has shown when we say we want to do something we do it.”
He said the store would not only cater for high end retail but there would be detailed market analysis to bring the right stores to Croydon and Westfield would look to employ local unemployed and offer training schemes to develop staff.
He said “In Stratford in terms of the 9,000 jobs something like 3,000 local unemployed were found their first jobs.”
Mr Burton also hinted that the company would invest heavily in the surrounding road network to improve transport into Croydon.
He said: “We have done a lot of work with TFL looking at the Gyratory and also how we may settle the issue of Five Ways which is long overdue.”
The pre-application plans are a direct challenge to Hammerson, who chosen developer by the majority leaseholders of the site RLAM and IBRCAC.
Hammerson, who own neighbouring Centrale, are yet to submit plans for the Whitgift.