In August 2017 Darlington Borough Council leased the management of the market to Market Asset Management (Darlington) Ltd, who have since undertaken survey and enablement works to draw up designs for the redevelopment of the Grade II listed building. These were launched in Spring 2019 and included enclosing the Market’s covered exterior in glass to house a temperate garden feature, which has proved extremely popular with the public during initial consultation.
Quarterbridge worked with Market Asset Management Darlington Ltd. ensuring designs represent the level of aspiration both MAM and Darlington Borough Council have for the Market Hall, which is to feature as the centrepiece of the Town Centre Regeneration Strategy.
The core basis of the project and guidance on the redevelopment came from 10 principles we use when creating a leasing strategy, similar to those a shopping centre may use, but specifically designed and aimed at independent businesses and market/food hall situations.
- Review of current vacancy levels
- Upcoming lease/licence expiry’s
- Occupancy Costs vs Market Rental Levels including rent styles such as turnover rents
- Anchor Tenants or aspirational anchor tenants
- Review of existing tenant mix
- Engagement with existing tenants to understand their views, aspirations and requirements
- Engagement with shoppers (both existing and non-market shoppers through in person surveys and online surveys) to discover shopper requirements
- Local and regional competition
- How can new businesses be attracted?
- Investment required in vacant space to make it attractive space for new lettings or alternative uses
Vacancy levels in the market have been increasing over a number of years, with rents being uncompetitive compared with vacant units in the town centre. The Market has few remaining anchor tenants and the current tenant mix requires re-focussing to attract more diverse age and economic profile. Recommendations included repurposing vacant space to include an emphasis towards F&B, entertainment, book exchanges, additional seating, exhibition areas and demolishing vacant stalls to enhance sightlines.
User reviews were undertaken to identify demographics using the market in its current form and those who were not customers at the market. This was achieved using customer surveys and stakeholder engagement with stallholders. To be successful, markets must represent the needs of the local population so they can take ownership of it and utilise the services. This data analysis is invaluable in forming a future offer appropriate for the location’s residents and visitors.
Quarterbridge undertook a full review including detailed suggestions about stall layouts, must-have and desirable features of the redevelopment, concept boards to illustrate these features and high-level financial cases for different levels of redevelopment. Quarterbridge identified a key tenant mix and used this to produce an indicative letting schedule.
Key elements explored were an extended F&B option on the market floor to act as a footfall driver to the fresh food produce and retail stalls. Retail space was reconfigured into smaller stalls with enhanced flexibility appealing to smaller businesses and allow for nimble change as trends continue to shift.
New lease and rental structures were developed to include F&B units operating on turnover rents and flexible terms to incentivise both landlord and tenant driving business into the market hall to promote dwell and generate income. The new development requires rental structures which are competitive compared with nearby shop units, providing a commercially sound case for investment. By carefully formulating the letting schedule to include start-up incentives and risk-sharing through turnover rents, the redeveloped market can be competitive both locally and regionally and attract an eclectic mix of SME’s and independent retailers.
Diversified uses have been incorporated into the new design to ensure the redeveloped market hall has a variety of USP’s and would be sustainable. This included co-working space to act as incubators for businesses, exhibition space to display artwork from local creatives, a demonstration kitchen area and stage for live music, comedy and events.