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The Grafton gets an extra £10million investment as new opportunities arise


By Ben Comber


John OShea The Grafton, Centre Manager. Picture: Keith Heppell
John OShea The Grafton, Centre Manager. Picture: Keith Heppell

The upgrade will be complete next year and could see ten new outlets and a gym open at the centre.

The Grafton Great Court CGI
The Grafton Great Court CGI

An extra £10million is being pumped into The Grafton upgrade, revealed by the Cambridge Independent this week.

The Grafton has just completed the first phase of its makeover, and centre manager John O’Shea says it has been so well received that retailers are queuing up to get a space in vacant units.

Part of the investment boost, which sees the initial £18.5million plan bolstered to £28million, means the centre will be reshuffled to provide space for 10 new shops and restaurants by the end of the upgrade, and there are also plans for a gym to occupy the second floor space left vacant by BHS.

Mr O’Shea says the investment is kick-starting a long-overdue upgrade of not just The Grafton, but the surrounding area of the city.

What's inside?

Central Court

Costa Coffee is relocating to Central Court; opening next year, it will almost double in size and will offer a new catering and seating area as part of phase two, which will create open spaces and feature an attractive new skylight and timber ceiling.

Great Court

The final phase will see the reconfiguration of the former BHS unit.

Legal and General Real Assets has recently agreed a lease with a fashion brand for the ground floor unit and says it will handover as soon as possible.

The proposed gym, alongside the creation of a new food quarter with around five outlets, will enhance the centre’s leisure offering and complement the eight-screen Vue Cinema.

“The feedback that we’ve had on phase one so far has been outstanding,” he told the Cambridge Independent.

What has been revealed in phase one, which is now complete, is the two-storey glass atrium at the Fitzroy Street entrance, along with new floors, lighting and toilets. Two further phases are planned.

“There’s loads more light in here,” Mr O’Shea continued. “We’ve moved away from the 80s architecture and made it far brighter.

“It’s all going to plan, and I’d go as far as saying that we’ve got the best toilets in Cambridge’s shopping centres. On the day we opened them, eight customers asked us where we got the floor tiles from because they wanted them for their kitchen, so elements of this are working really, really well!

The Grafton Central Court CGI
The Grafton Central Court CGI

“The Fitzroy entrance gives an indication to customers about what’s coming throughout the whole of the scheme, so this is the spec that we’re driving for.

“We’ve had Decathlon move in, which opened just before the summer holiday period.

“They are massively outperforming their estimates which we’re really pleased about.

“Bearing in mind that we’ve got a lot of work to do on the scheme, we’re over the moon with the level of turnover they’re delivering and it shows just how successful The Grafton can be in future.”

A PureGym at The Grafton?

A 24-hour gym could be opening at The Grafton on the second floor of the vacant BHS store.

An application to the city council reveals the gym would be operated by PureGym and comprise:

■ Free classes, including fast classes for lunchtimes and also at peak periods

■ Members’ workshops with advice on nutrition, toning and wellbeing

■ Affordable flexible membership

■ High security and 24-hour manning of the gym by professional staff.

The planning application requests a change of use for the 839 sq m floorspace on the second floor of what used to be the BHS.

The application also requests a 801 sq m extension, so it would be a 1,640 sq m space with a new stair and lift access from the car park and first floor of the shopping centre.

There are also big changes planned for Eden Hall, the chapel at the Fitzroy entrance, the food court and Great Court, and Mr O’Shea said there are also talks under way with independent Cambridge retailers and restaurants, which are considering spaces.

Mr O’Shea continued: “What we’re not going to be is a Grand Arcade.

“I’m hoping to improve the breadth of high street retailers that we have that are accessible to as many different customers as we can achieve and the same goes for our restaurants, we don’t want to be top-end exclusive, we want to cater for our local family-based and student market and there’s loads of brands out there that do that.

“We’ve underplayed the student market here previously but some of the brands that are coming will be very focused on our family and student population rather than the more tourist, niche-led offer in the city centre.

The Grafton Centre, Cambridge
The Grafton Centre, Cambridge

“I firmly believe that we are without any shadow of a doubt the strongest family offer all under one roof. It’s a more relaxing shopping environment, it’s more easy to access than the historic core, it will be a very pleasant, light and airy place to shop, a less stressful place than other locations.”



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