http://www.propertyweek.com/in-depth/ma ... 92.article#
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article says wrote:
HOMEIN DEPTHMARKET FEATURES
Landlords contend for a share of the Reading restaurant market
Hammerson has both sides of the waterfront tied up, with restaurant chains and coffee shops opening out from The Oracle shopping centre to both riverbanks. With no fewer than 35 places to eat at The Oracle, does the town need any more F&B space?
That is what Reading Borough Council’s planning committee will have to deliberate on 12 October when it decides whether or not to grant change-of-use consent for four of the town’s old buildings, the owners of which are hoping to convert shop units to A3 restaurants. If their wish is granted, Lloyds Banking Group premises at 1-2 Market Place, the derelict Coopers Arms pub and the disused King’s Walk shopping centre will form a new restaurant quarter.
But the most prominent change of use of the lot will be at Jacksons Corner, where the curved Victorian façade of the former EJ Jackson & Sons department store sweeps round Market Place and Kings Road. The owner, South East developer SG Capital, paid £4.5m for the former department store. It first applied for change of use in February, but is making a revised application for three ground-floor restaurants totalling 8,000 sq ft with 27 flats above.
All three of the restaurants have been leased even before the scheme gets the green light.
According to Fiona Brownfoot, director of retail and leisure at Reading commercial property consultancy Hicks Baker, the pre-lets at Jacksons Corner are at levels of rent never before seen outside The Oracle.
The three tenants, paying between £36/sq ft and £48/sq ft - compared with The Oracle’s £52/sq ft - are Franco Manca, the pizza chain, Byron and Busaba Eathai.
David Page, chairman of Fulham Shore, Franco Manca’s owner, says that it is the lower rents at Jacksons Corner that makes it attractive to tenants. Fulham Shore will be paying £85,000 a year for 1,800 sq ft, the smallest of the three restaurants, which has room for 75 customers.
“Units in The Oracle are a little bigger than that but we like small, compact spaces because we don’t like empty spaces, which you are likely to get in the early times of the week,” Page explains. “We also like Jacksons Corner because it is out there on its own and not in a shopping centre. We like the curved shopfront because so much of Reading is new-build.”
Franco Manca’s Reading restaurant is part of an expansion outside London along the M4 to Bristol and Bath and south to Guildford and Brighton. It is the geographical position of Reading that puts it on restaurateurs’ lists when planning expansion.
Elsewhere in the town, Andrew Strong, chief executive of Atlantis Group, which bought the King’s Walk shopping centre out of receivership for a rumoured £3m, says the centre already has consent for restaurants. He plans to open eight. “Reading has a bit of a problem because it only has chain restaurants, and people want the unique ‘London’ type of restaurant because there is a high disposable income here,” he says.
For a town that already has ample restaurant provision, introducing more could be a challenge, but if Strong is right, demand from locals could make a larger and more varied food and beverage offer a viable prospect.
So there we have it... if the council agree it, that area will change into a restaurant category and be leased out.