Mystery buyer puts in bid for prime retail site
The Royal Star Arcade is being sold – but millions of pounds have been wiped off its value.
A mystery buyer is said to have bid around £2.5m for the freehold, which was bought by the John Laing Pension Fund six years ago for around £10.5m.
The Royal Star Arcade in the centre of Maidstone
The deal has yet to be signed for the prime retail site, that was converted into a shopping centre in 1989, but a spokesman for centre management Jones Lang Lasalle, confirmed the sale was in progress.
Alison Owen of commercial property experts Smiths Gore in Kings Hill said that independent businesses like the arcade have been hit harder by the downturn than national chains. She said that retail property values took a “nosedive” in 2008, and that pressure on independent traders has led to high tenancy turnover.
However, Royal Star Arcade retailers are remaining positive as it is thought the new buyer is independent with close connections to the county, who will have a personal interest in its success.
Garry Johnson owner of clothes shop Woods said: “It is a hugely popular and historic centre.
“We spent 20 years in Bank Street but came to the Royal Star Arcade as we see great potential here and in Maidstone in general.”
Retailers have voted to introduce Sunday opening, from this coming weekend, with opening times from 10.30am to 4.30pm.
Centre spokesman Lyne Boyd declined to comment on the sale, while negotiations were ongoing, but said she was pleased to support Sunday trading: “We have lots of new tenants and are planning to introduce a Sunday market, with fresh produce and arts and crafts on sale.”
The Royal Star Arcade stands on the site of the old Royal Star Hotel – once the home of Maidstone’s main hostelry. It began life as the Star Hotel in the 16th century, becoming royal after a visit from the young Queen Victoria
It features a ‘Disraeli Balcony’, where Benjamin Disraeli made his parliamentary acceptance speech after being elected MP for Maidstone.
- Click here for more news from across the county