A property development company specialising in office-to-residential conversions has bought the Spires shopping centre and its five-acre site between Barnet High Street and Stapylton Road for £28 million.
BYM Capital is paying £3 million more than the suggested sale price of £25 million but far less than the £40 million paid by the Canadian pension fund AIMCO when it purchased the complex in 2015.
So far, BYM has released no information about its plans, but the sale underlines the uncertain future facing the Spires with its Waitrose supermarket, NCP car park and cafes fronting on to the High Street.
Distressed shopping centres are up for sale across the country and developers are poised to take advantage of changes in planning law that take effect in August and which allow for the change of use of town centre commercial, business and service buildings and their conversion for housing.
The Barnet Society and other groups are urging Barnet Council – which owns the freehold of the Spires site – to prepare a planning brief for the future of the shopping complex and surrounding area. Previous efforts to revive the Spires have been appreciated by residents and its well being is seen as essential to maintaining High Barnet as a popular shopping destination.
When the Spires was placed on the market in March, real estate advisers Savills said the centre offered great potential for being redeveloped with a mix of retail and residential development.
An aerial view of the how centre might be redeveloped showed the existing courtyards and malls replaced with a large courtyard formed around five storey blocks of flats with retail premises on the ground floor.
React News, a property website which was the first to report news of the sale, described BYM Capital as an investor and developer engaged in the conversion of offices into flats.
In 2018, BYM bought the former BskyB headquarters in West London for £98 million for conversion into 271 flats and followed that in 2019 with the purchase of the former Mothercare headquarters in Watford.
Mark Garmon-Jones, Savills’ head of shopping centre investment, told the Barnet Society that he could not comment further on the sale to BYM Capital or future plans for the Spires.
He confirmed there had been considerable interest from developers and investors who had seen the potential for regenerating the Spires which had added appeal because there was considerable space around the centre for future development.
The sale of the Spires and uncertainty about its redevelopment has highlighted continuing concern over the future of the twice-weekly Barnet stalls market which is under the control of the Spires management.
In recent weeks, following the easing of lockdown, the market has flourished and often on Saturdays has eight, nine or even ten stalls, entirely filling its allocated space around the bandstand at the Waitrose entrance.
There is similar uncertainty about the stalled plan to build a 100-bed Premier Inn on the former market site at the corner of St Albans Road and Chipping Close.
Planning permission for the hotel was granted in November 2018 and expires in November this year.
Currently the site is owned by Aberdeen City Council which purchased it for £4million in 2019 – at a time when the parent company Whitbread was indicating that the new hotel would open in time for Christmas 2020 – a target date that inevitably became a casualty of the covid-19 pandemic.
React News says the Borough of Barnet is an area which is proving highly proactive among buyers of retail assets looking for development opportunities.
In February it reported that Barnet Council was buying Brent Cross retail park for £55 million as part of the land assembly for the mix-used £5 billion Brent Cross master plan; nearby the Staples Corner shopping park was sold for £28 million to the Bestway Group with the potential for residential conversion; and last year residential developer Ballymore purchased the Broadwalk shopping centre in Edgware and is working up plans for 3,500 homes.