The Ardent Companies (Ardent), the US-based real estate investment and asset management firm, has completed the acquisition of Touchwood shopping centre in Solihull from Lendlease Retail Partnership (LLRP), appointing Sovereign Centros as asset manager and Cushman & Wakefield and Knight Frank as joint leasing agents.
With the decisive appointment of a new team, Ardent commences plans to enhance the established offering at Touchwood, encompassing 650,000 sq ft of high-quality retail, restaurant, and leisure space, through a new asset management initiative it is calling ‘Project Atlanta’.
The appointment of a new asset management team provides fresh impetus to work proactively with existing tenants, which include Zara, Next, Apple and John Lewis, to continue to improve the shopping environment. Sovereign Centros will also work alongside Cushman & Wakefield and Knight Frank to drive a raft of new initiatives as part of Project Atlanta focussed on attracting the latest retail and leisure concepts to the centre, with Ardent already inheriting significant demand for space from potential new occupiers.
Located a 5-minute walk from Solihull station, Touchwood is well positioned be a driving force in Solihull’s wider growth ambitions, with the arrival of HS2 set to reduce the journey time from London Euston to 38-minutes.
Project Atlanta will see Ardent and Sovereign Centros work closely with Solihull Council to implement a series of improvements to Touchwood’s signage, entrances and the main arcades to maximise the opportunities for Solihull as a key visitor location and capitalise on regional investment initiatives, including the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games, with nearly 50% of all events being hosted within Solihull Borough.
Touchwood is backed by Ardent’s Strategic Fund I and is the investor’s second acquisition since launching its UK arm in January, following quickly on its acquisition of 1.4 million sq ft of industrial space from M7 Real Estate in March 2021. In alignment with Ardent’s strategy in the US, the investor is actively seeking opportunities to acquire and reposition high-performing assets across other UK property sectors, and to work with best-in-class asset managers to grow the value of its investments.
Matt Shulman, CEO at The Ardent Companies, commented: “Touchwood is an exceptional shopping centre and completing the acquisition marks a new milestone for our UK investment platform, which we are excited to grow further in alignment with our strategies and objectives in the US.”
Andrew Hilston, Managing Director at Ardent UK, commented: “Touchwood’s exceptional location and strong tenant line-up were important factors in our decision to invest - underpinned by its emergence as the only John Lewis anchored centre in the region. Solihull is poised for growth as a key commercial location within the West Midlands and we have already received numerous competitive approaches for space at the centre from potential occupiers across retail, leisure and hospitality.”
Chris Geaves, Chief Executive of Sovereign Centros commented: “We are delighted to be appointed at Touchwood and see a real opportunity to strengthen the centre’s position at the heart of a thriving regional market. We look forward to applying our extensive asset management expertise and to working closely with the leasing agents, centre teams, (Workman& Partners) and the local council to progress a range of new initiatives that bring Touchwood in line with the wider growth ambitions of Solihull.”
James Merrett, Retail & Leisure Partner at Cushman & Wakefield, commented: “We have identified major potential to refresh Touchwood’s offering with new retail, F&B and leisure operators and using our extensive UK mall experience we are energised to help the new owners create a remarkable shopping, dining and leisure destination at Touchwood.”
David Legat, Retail Partner at Knight Frank commented: “Having advised Ardent on the acquisition we were delighted to be appointed on the retail and leisure leasing agency. We are looking forward to bringing new and exciting retailers to enhance the tenant mix at Touchwood as the centre enters an exciting new era.”