Confirmed: Newcastle’s Green Market to close in January
Since I broke the story, in January, official confirmation of the closure of Newcastle’s Green Market at High Friars has been rather slow in coming. Even back then, I argued that “the lack of any coverage – or perhaps even awareness – of what appears to be the current Green Market’s impending closure is surprising.”
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, however, notices on Newcastle City Council letterheads, posted around the market, are now confirming that it will close on 31 January 2011, and the story has been picked up today by both BBC News and the Evening Chronicle.
Though the market has only operated from its current site for the last three years, there has been, as the Chronicle notes, a Greenmarket in Newcastle for the past four centuries. While the current incarnation at High Friars may be a rather sad, mostly empty version compared to its predecessors, its demise will signal the end of one of Newcastle’s most long-established retail ‘brands’.
Interestingly, the BBC article remarks that “the departure of the market will make way for a fashion retailer”, though it’s unclear from where this information has been sourced. However, it echoes my earlier observation of a new tenant being “secured” for the three-storey retail unit that will replace the Green Market, and does nothing to dispel the still-persistent rumours of Urban Outfitters being the retailer in question.
Spare a thought, however, for the few tenants that are still trading in the Green Market, and who now face the further upheaval – if they have the energy and inclination – of moving into the Grainger Market.
When the current, 15-unit site was launched in 2007, following a £1m refurbishment, it was heralded as being “fresh”, “new” and “modern”, with “a prime location… right next to MK One and New Look”, but with every intention that a new, permanent Greenmarket would be built as part of the St Andrew’s Way extension.
With those plans subsequently abandoned, and the ‘temporary’ Green Market too small and isolated to really take off – especially since New Look’s departure for the Eldon Square extension – the Green Market at High Friars was always likely to struggle as a longer-term enterprise.
Interestingly, the fact that the new ‘fashion retailer’ will be accessed from Grainger Street (with access from Eldon Square itself due to be blocked up) is only likely to compound the problems facing the shopping centre’s High Friars section. A mall leading only to the toilets, a branch of Internaçionale (in the former MK One unit) and the escalator down to Nelson Street is hardly going to draw the crowds.
Securing a really strong anchor to reoccupy the large, two-storey former New Look unit will therefore be crucial. To encourage flow around that end of the shopping centre, it will be much better to have one retailer occupying both levels, preferably also with a reopened direct entrance on to Nelson Street, as was the case when the site housed WHSmith.
It may even be worth trying to carve out a larger unit from the old New Look, the current Internaçionale, and the mall in between, to create a sizable, modern unit that may appeal to a retailer such as Clas Ohlson – already represented in Capital Shopping Centres’ malls at Watford and Manchester – or Zara.
Ultimately, however, full redevelopment of the Sidgate and High Friars end of Eldon Square – preferably including reinstatement of the historic link between Clayton Street and Old Eldon Square, and a livelier frontage to Blackett Street – may be the radical solution that’s needed.