Bosses hoping for fresh start as Royal Arcade goes up for grabs
- Credit: Archant
The winds of change are whipping through the Royal Arcade after it was revealed that the search is on for new owners.
Current owners Legal & General have put the site up for auction with a price tag of £1.25m.
And bosses of businesses in the arcade are hoping if new owners are found it could turn the tide of shop closures.
Wayne Hinton, who owns Marmalade Café in the arcade, said he was hoping a local buyer could be found for the property.
He said: "If we can get somebody local in it would really boost the tenants, particularly if they were to lower rents and get more people into the centre.
"If a local company was to purchase it and take it out of the corporate world a little, it would really make things better for us tenants."
If a new buyer is found it will be the first time in more than a decade that the arcade has changed hands.
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Current owner Legal & General - which was approached for comment - has owned the site for 12 years before putting it up for sale via property auctioneers Acuitus.
Likewise, Matthew Stone, a sales assistant at Langley's Toy Store - one of the arcade's longest-running tenants - said he was hopeful a fresh start would prove a boon for the arcade.
He said: "I think it very much could be a positive thing. There are quite a few empty shops in the arcade at the minute so somebody new coming in with different views could well fill a few of them.
"I really hope if somebody private comes in it could help be something of a revival. I would really like to think this will be a positive thing."
For Stefan Gurney, chief executive of the Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) the auction presents a perfect opportunity for any potential buyer.
He said: "I think it is a really good opportunity for someone to take on a very iconic building in the city centre and really drive it forward.
"I really hope somebody new can bring in really good ideas and a fresh pair of eyes and take a good look at what the possibilities for the place might be - even beyond just retail.
"I think how the arcade is at the minute is really indicative of the challenges facing the entire retail market, particularly following the pandemic, so I'd encourage people to really support the businesses in there and buy local where possible.
"The Royal Arcade really is a beautiful building and one of the finest examples of Skipper's architecture in the city so I really hope somebody can come in and really reimagine the place."
The prospect of a fresh set of eyes has also been welcomed by shoppers using the arcade on Monday.
Ann and David Cubbit, from Sprowston, visited the centre to have a cuppa at Marmalades.
Mr Cubbit said: "It needs tidying up - I'd love to see more curiosity shops - the Royal Arcade is about what you can't get out there.
"The million dollar question will be how much rent a new owner could charge though."
Mrs Cubbit added: "I remember it back in the day - our granddaughter loves Langley's.
"It's a shame Colman's has gone."
Doreen Marr, who lives in the city area, said: "We only really use it as a cut-through now but we used to use it for shopping We need more shops related to the city- that is what the Royal Arcade is for."
Helen and Simon Long were also using the arcade as a cut-through as opposed to it being their shopping destination.
Mrs Long said: "I think it needs unique and individual shops - something different to the high street."
Mr Long added: "I don't think the arcade should be changed at all - once the shops are full it will be lovely."
The Royal Arcade goes under the hammer on Friday, September 24.
History of the Royal Arcade
The Royal Arcade is one of a number of prominent city centre buildings designed by Dereham-based architect George Skipper - and is perhaps his most recognisable.
It was opened in 1899 and was revered at the time as being "a fragment of The Arabian Nights dropped in the old city".
It is instantly recognisable for its high ceilings, arches and architectural details, including its glass and timber roof.
It was built on the site of The Angel, a large scale inn and entertainment venue which stood on the site in the 1600s.
When it first opened in 1899, it was the home to 24 bow-fronted shops, a pub and a clubroom.
For decades it was home to the Colman's Mustard Shop and Museum, but when the attractions lease came to an end in 2017 it closed down, amid the closure of Unilever's Norwich factory.
The sale will see the centre under the new ownership for the first time in 12 years.