PROPERTY company Land Securities said it is powering ahead with its landmark £350m Trinity Leeds development, with the site now 61 per cent let.
The group is in talks with another 15 retailers and restaurants which should take the development to over two thirds let, some 18 months before it opens in spring 2013.
Land Securities’ portfolio director Gerald Jennings, who heads the company’s Leeds office, said that once the site opens Leeds will become the north’s top retail destination overtaking Manchester.
At the moment London is the UK’s biggest retail destination, followed by Glasgow, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham and then Leeds in sixth place.
Mr Jennings said the opening of Trinity Leeds will propel Leeds into fourth place.
“When Liverpool One opened in 2008 it set a new benchmark,” said Mr Jennings. “Since then there is nothing else that has taken retail and leisure forwards. Trinity Leeds will take it on again. It will be a beacon for the North.”
The one million square foot development is the largest retail and leisure scheme under construction in the UK and will be the only major development to open in the next two years.
The scheme is almost 61 per cent let, including 54 per cent pre-let and a further 6.7 per cent in solicitors’ hands.
“Negotiations are ongoing with a whole host of leading national and international retailers and restaurateurs who want to bring their brand to Leeds’ prime pitch,” said Mr Jennings.
Land Securities said that its existing Leeds development, White Rose, is its top-performing retail asset in the north.
“We have made further investment in the centre over the past six months, including the opening of a 20,000 sq ft H&M store, the relocation of WH Smith and expansion of New Look, which has quadrupled in size to 16,000 sq ft.”
Mr Jennings said White Rose footfall has stabilised at around 13 million visitors a year.
“We have seen people stay longer and spend more per visit,” said Mr Jennings. “The void rate at White Rose is just 1.3 per cent, whereas for the retail portfolio as a whole it is just under four per cent.
“We’re not immune but we’re reasonably happy with the performance of White Rose.”
Land Securities reported a 17 per cent rise in net asset value (NAV) as the value of its UK malls and offices climbed against a worsening economic backdrop.
The developer posted an adjusted NAV of 863p per share in the six months through to end-September, up from 737p for the same period last year.
The value of its property portfolio rose 11 per cent to £10.8bn from £9.7bn this time last year and produced a total return, which includes rental income, of 4.9 per cent, outperforming the Investment Property Databank benchmark of 3.9 per cent.
“We are alive to the potential effects of economic uncertainty and changeable sentiment in capital markets,” said chief executive Francis Salway.