The sun’s out, there’s people milling around the Thames path at Greenwich and yet alongside is a whole bunch of empty retail and commercial units at New Capital Quay in Greenwich How can this be?
It’s been a few years now since New Capital Quay opened in Greenwich. Since then only a fraction of unit alongside the river have been taken on. This is a prime riverside spot and there’s no shortage of people passing on most days what with a large Waitrose round the corner and the recent installation of a footbridge over the Thames.
Unfortunately only a few units are occupied since completion four years ago. There’s the Fuller’s pub called the Sail Loft. A few shops and a gym too. But this should be a bustling spot given the location and large increase in local residents and tourists.
To see how it’s done correctly there’s great example in Bristol named Wapping Wharf. This opened around the same time and is similarly near to many other pubs and restaurants and by a river, yet all units have been taken on, there’s many independents and a great range. Oh, and it’s very popular.
All units seemed occupied and were extremely busy. The contrast with Greenwich is pretty stark, and it’s a great shame Greenwich isn’t like this. There’s not exactly a large number of good music venues in Greenwich, and for a major town the restaurant choice isn’t that good. Plenty of scope for interesting places.
So what’s gone wrong? Here’s a glossy sales ad before opening in 2013.
It seems many Greenwich developments are half empty at best. The Movement is the same by Greenwich station. River Islands is the same.
The Bristol development has worked as developers made a conscious choice to encourage independent business instead of the same chains. If those chains don’t appear, and rents are too high, empty units are the result.
And it’s worked for developers in Bristol. They’ve had full units, a buzzing area, strong demand for units meaning a box park type space has been created not once but twice, and the developers have secured coverage on the BBC.
Maybe the big developers don’t care about all that. As long as they make their (large) 20% profit margins and sales then who cares if it improves the town, or if rents are too high for independents to give things a try.
As nice as a Fullers pub is it’s not the most exciting thing. Cheaper rent would permit more interesting pubs – perhaps one with varied live music and events.
As it is, after four years the area is far behind what it could be.