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Owners of Ipswich's Buttermarket Centre could be interested in more developments in the town

PUBLISHED: 16:58 20 February 2017 | UPDATED: 11:22 21 February 2017

Buttermarket Ipswich.

Buttermarket Ipswich.

Ipswich has been hailed as a great place to do business after the Buttermarket Centre was sold in a multi-million pound deal even before the final pieces are put into the redevelopment jigsaw.

Ken Ford, executive director at Capital & Regional.Ken Ford, executive director at Capital & Regional.

The companies behind its redevelopment are now looking for other opportunities in the heart of Ipswich – possibly starting with the former Odeon Cinema or the BHS store in the Butter Market Street.

They have been prompted to look at other sites in Ipswich after seeing the level of support they got from the local council and other groups over the last two years.

Capital & Regional along with its partner the Drum Property Group bought the centre for £9.2m two years ago and spent £25m on its upgrade.

The companies have now agreed to sell the centre for £54.7m to the National Grid Pension Fund – giving it a profit of just over £20 million in two years.

October 1991 and with the opening of the Buttermarket Shopping Centre a year away the entrance from St Stephens Lane was taking shape. Photo: Jerry Turner/ ArchantOctober 1991 and with the opening of the Buttermarket Shopping Centre a year away the entrance from St Stephens Lane was taking shape. Photo: Jerry Turner/ Archant

Ken Ford, Executive Director, Capital & Regional said: “On acquiring the centre in 2015 we had a long term vision for the town and are pleased to have brought this to life.

“We would like to extend our thanks to Ipswich Borough Council for its continued support throughout the duration of this project.”

He said the council’s officers and members of the planning committee had been crucial in getting the project completed in good time.

“We took on the project in March 2015 and now it is almost complete. Some councils would have taken two years just to give us planning permission – Ipswich has been very helpful, not just the council but other civic leaders like Ben Gummer.”

The centre cost £65 million to build and boasts four levels of shopsThe centre cost £65 million to build and boasts four levels of shops

Mr Ford said it had not been the plan to sell the centre quite so fast: “But this offer was too good to turn down.

“The National Grid Pension Fund, like us, sees significant growth potential for Ipswich and we look forward to working with them on the successful completion of the leasing programme.”

Capital & Regional and the Drum Property Group will continue to operate the centre through its current management team for the rest of the year – by which time the last four units are expected to be occupied.

Mr Ford said: “Once the cinema opens (March 31) I don’t think there will be any shortage of tenants for the last units in the centre.”

Hundreds of shoppers lined the balconies to mark the official opening of the shopping centre back in Ocotber 1992.Hundreds of shoppers lined the balconies to mark the official opening of the shopping centre back in Ocotber 1992.

The news of the sale was welcomed by Ipswich Council leader David Ellesmere who said it was a real vote of confidence in the town.

“What Ken Ford says backs up what we are saying – that Ipswich is a very good place to do business and we welcome the fact that a blue chip investor like the National Grid Pension Fund sees that.

“I am also pleased that he wants to invest in the town again and we would be delighted to talk to him or any other investor who wants to improve the town centre.”

Mr Ford said his company had not bought any other sites in the town centre – but was aware of the opportunities in Ipswich and would like to work in the town again.

Work being done to renovate the Buttermarket, 26th February 2016Work being done to renovate the Buttermarket, 26th February 2016

The former Odeon is now owned by the Empire group which will be operating the 12-screen cinema in the Buttermarket.

Mr Ford said he had talked to them about the future of the former Odeon and hoped a deal might be forthcoming although there was nothing concrete yet.

He has also talked to the banks who now own the property of BHS following the closure of the chain last year.

The old Butter Market Street store was originally part of the centre when it opened in 1992 and he said it was another good opportunity – but again nothing firm had been agreed at this stage.

Dismantlement project on the entrance to the Buttermarket Shopping Centre started last May. Left to right, Tom Bloor, Mark Bloor and Mark William.Dismantlement project on the entrance to the Buttermarket Shopping Centre started last May. Left to right, Tom Bloor, Mark Bloor and Mark William.

And he added: “There are other opportunities in Ipswich that we will be looking at.”

The National Grid Pension Fund invests billions of pounds in investments to help pay its retired staff.

The exact amount in the fund varies according to the value of share prices – over the last two years it has varied in value from £13bn to £17bn.

Investments like the Buttermarket Centre are seen as valuable for a fund like this because the rents from tenants provide a regular income which is an alternative to the variations found from an investment in stocks and shares which can be volatile.

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