Monday, January 21, 2008

The Proposed Demolition of the Werdmuller Centre: Some Further Information and Comments

The Proposed Demolition of the Werdmuller Centre: Some Further Information and Comment
Fabio Todeschini Monday, January 21st, 2008

I refer to the contribution made on the 14th January 2008. Having reflected on the matter and having been advised of some aspects relating to an offer to purchase the property from the Old Mutual some years ago, I wish to add as follows.

Additions to the Core of the Matter
I propose to ask what seem to me to be some more pivotal questions and to answer them to the best of my understanding, as follows.

Was the Werdmuller Centre a well resolved development brief in financial terms? With the benefit of hindsight, the evidence suggests that, over the period that The Old Mutual appointed Roelof Uytenbogaardt to develop plans and their land-holdings for the project continued to expand as proposals were framed therefore, Claremont tended increasingly to be overtraded in the retail sector, particularly as it related to goods and services for the lower income group. Consequently, no amount of ingenuity would have rendered the proposition a financial success. This in particular because the site was located to the east of the Main Road and, in contrast to Cavendish Square shopping centre located to the west of the Main Road, it had to mainly cater to a lower income group. This is borne out by the inability of The Old Mutual to attract an anchor tenant for the easterly portion of the expanded building, which therefore, had to be limited to small shops and offices.

Why was so little parking provided in the Werdmuller Centre? In the context of most of the development being targeted at lower-income shopping, it was agreed with The Old Mutual that a minimum of parking should be provided.

Were alterations made to the Werdmuller Centre by The Old Mutual over the years sympathetic? The alterations made were clearly not sympathetic.

Did The Old Mutual maintain the Werdmuller Centre appropriately over the years? Clearly not.

Have offers to purchase the Werdmuller Centre been made to The Old Mutual in recent years? I was advised by a Director of Equity Investments last week that they did make an offer some two years ago but that The Old Mutual was not prepared to entertain it, irrespective of the sum involved. Perhaps other offers were also made.

Interim Conclusion
Having not been very good from the beginning with neither the brief nor management of the development of the Werdmuller Centre, it would seem that The Old Mutual see in the new planning framework for Claremont a way to recoup all their losses on the project with a far larger development. They appear to be intent on total demolition of the Werdmuller Centre as a way to achieve this. The Draft HIA is silent on a number of matters, including some raised in this document and that dated 14th January 2008. Is it possible that the HIA is not entirely impartial and in the public interest and that it tends to be ‘apologist’ and even ‘advocating’ re-development?

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