Revamped Cambridge Grafton Centre ‘not just about shops, but boosting entertainment too’

Cambridge’s refurbished Grafton centre will not just be about a better ‘shopping experience’, bosses there say – it will also be about entertainment too.

As the News has revealed, owners Legal & General Property plan to spend £18.5 million on revamping the shopping centre, including building a new entrance in Fitzroy Street, bringing in new retailers, improving shop fronts and replacing the notoriously leaky roof with a glazed ceiling.

Speaking at a press conference about the development, Christine Dunmore, of London-based marketing firm Portland, said: “The aim is to make the Grafton a great place for people to shop, with popular High Street stores, but with an edge.

“The Grafton already has a lot to offer in terms of entertainment, with the Vue cinema complex, and the Great Court is a cavernous space for staging events. Other shopping centres in the city don’t have that.

“We believe that providing other facilities such as more restaurants will make it even more attractive to people, and not just for families with children, but for everyone.”

Paul Turner, of architects Corstorphine Wright, said: “Our brief has been to reposition what was a tired-looking 1980s shopping centre as something more modern-day. Shop fronts will be changed into a more contemporary look, we’ll get rid of the flooring and replace it with modern grey tiles, and the glass roofs will bring in lots of light.

“It won’t be a Grand Arcade. Grand Arcade attracts visitors and tourists, but we want the Grafton to be for local people, local shoppers.”

Tom Williams of Legal & General, said: “The idea is to retain the existing retail line-up, and where we can, bring in new retailers as well, so that the centre’s units are fully used. But it’s not just about shops, it’s about providing people with entertainment, and places to eat and drink as well.”

Among the new shops will be French-based sportswear trader Decathlon, which will be housed next to Boots in two units currently occupied by other retailers, who will move elsewhere in the centre.

Work is due to begin this month on phase one of the refurbishment work, which will include refashioning the Fitzroy Street entrance. That entrance will have to close while the new one is built, but a new way-in will be created on the Burleigh Street side.

Smaller shop units in Eden Hall are being emptied, and that will be remodelled to house either one big new tenant – possibly a restaurant – or three smaller ones.

Legal & General said when new shops or restaurants were signed up, their names would be announced.

One uncertainty hanging over the redevelopment is the fate of the BHS department store. BHS has gone into administration, and is still trading while efforts are under way to see if it can be sold as a going concern.

Legal & General and Cambridge-based development partners Wrenbridge are waiting to see what happens.

The News understands that if the BHS store closes and the space there becomes available, some or all of it may be used to boost the Grafton’s eating-out provision.

Revamping the Grafton has been in the pipeline for the past seven years, but has been on hold because of the economic slump.

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