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What happens next at Newport’s Friar’s Walk

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Buyer of stalled Modus shopping centre scheme has revival plans.

In May Queensberry Real Estate was appointed as developer for the 350,000 sq ft Friar’s Walk shopping centre in Newport city centre.

It took over the scheme from the original developer, a joint venture called Modus Corovest, which went into administration in May 2009.

Queensberry was created when Multi Development’s six-strong UK team split from the developer’s European operation in May this year.

Queensberry is trying to address the challenge of attracting retailers to a city centre devastated by competition from out-of-town shopping. In October 2010 Marks & Spencer announced that it was planning to close its store on Commercial Street in the city centre and move to Newport Retail Park at Spytty, which has planning consent for comparison goods retailing. Next and Monsoon have also closed their city centre stores in recent months.

The priority is to find a tenant to occupy an 80,000 sq ft anchor store for the development, which is planned for an area on John Frost Square and surrounding land. Debenhams had signed up for the scheme proposed by Modus.

“We are looking to open a dialogue with Debenhams,” says Paul Sargent, a partner at Queensberry. He adds that both House of Fraser and Primark are also targets. Queensberry has close contacts with both of these retailers since working with them on Multi’s schemes in Belfast and Bath.

Sheila Davies, corporate director for regeneration and the environment at Newport City Council, says the renewal of the city’s retail core is the council’s priority. After the Modus scheme collapsed, the council spent 314m completing the site assembly for the scheme and slimmed it down from 475,000 sq ft to 350,000 sq ft before appointing Queensberry as developer.

Sargent hopes to submit a planning application in October or November this year, before seeking funding in March 2012 and starting a two-year construction programme in early 2013.