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Cowley shopping complex sold as part of £85m UK deal
A COWLEY shopping centre could have a new lease of life this year with a cash boost from the new owners.
The Templars Square Shopping Centre has been bought by the firm that last year oversaw the £4.5m revamp of Abingdon’s rundown Abbey shopping precinct.
NewRiver Retail (NRR) bought the Cowley centre as part of a total £85m investment in five UK shopping centres previously under the ownership of Zurich Assurance.
And property director Allan Lockhart said he was keen to bring about improvements and bring more business to the centre.
He said free wireless internet would be installed and the old Post Office unit would be divided to create more retail space.
He also promised better signs, branding, accessibility, marketing, and events.
He added: “We are avid champions of the high street and are committed to delivering a dynamic retail destination in Cowley and further enhance Oxford’s largest covered centre.
“We work closely with our retailers, local traders, town centre partnerships, educational institutions, consumers, local councils and the local community to create an attractive place to shop in the heart of the town.”
NewRiver spokesman Martin Hughes said the old Post Office – which moved into the Co-op store in 2007 – would be redeveloped as two units and the firm intended to start working on improvements in the early new year. But he could not say how much would be spent yet.
According to the tenants’ list the 1960s centre has more than 70 traders and at least eight empty units.
Mark Ibbetson, branch manager of Stokes Greengrocers, said: “It will be nice if the centre gets upgraded.
“In any case it’s better for the customers and will bring more people to the area.”
Lynn Merrett, manager of the Sue Ryder charity shop, also welcomed the news, adding: “Any improvement is good.”
Bob Price, leader of Oxford City Council, said: “We look forward to finding out more about their plans for revitalising the centre which has such an important role as a local shopping complex.”
Graham Jones, a spokesman for Oxford traders’ group Rox, welcomed the news as he said parts of the centre looked “tired”.
He also said the investment could trigger improvements elsewhere in the city, adding: “If it’s going to make Templars Square more attractive then the other areas will have to up their game as well.”
Supermarket firm Sainsbury’s is due to open a store in the nearby former B&Q store at the Templars Retail Park in the summer.
The overall £3.5m scheme will also include three new cafes or restaurants and three other shops.