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International House cost Ashford Borough Council almost £8million

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Ashford Borough Council paid a staggering £7.9million for International House and its surrounding land, it has emerged.

Authority bosses purchased the site in February 2014 along with the adjacent properties in Dover Place and the Dover Place car park.

They plan to turn the area into a Commercial Quarter and the first part of the scheme is almost complete with the six-storey office block next to the Everest Inn.

International House was bought by ABC for almost £8m
International House was bought by ABC for almost £8m

The cost of the purchase was revealed in documents prepared for an overview and scrutiny meeting, which looked into ABC's commercial investment.

Written by council officials Phil Bond and Paul McKenner, the report says buying International House "secured an additional income stream".

It says: "International House was purchased as both an investment as well as part of the longer term council plan to develop the Ashford Commercial Quarter.

The Commercial Quarter has been built on land bought by ABC
The Commercial Quarter has been built on land bought by ABC

"With the continuing demand for office space in Ashford, there are currently no plans to dispose of the property as it is providing a financial return.

"The resurfacing of the International House car park is planned for this month with further improvements planned for later this year."

In the 2016-17 financial year, International House - which was being managed by GVA when ABC bought it - yielded a return of 12.6%, which was higher than its predicted 11.4%.

ABC bought International House and its surrounding buildings
ABC bought International House and its surrounding buildings

The report added: "The most significant lease, which ends in 2018, is for block B - occupied by the Department for Work and Pensions - for approximately 17,000 sq ft.

"Commercial terms for a new lease have been agreed and it is anticipated that a new long-term lease for this part of the building will be signed imminently.

"Of the remaining vacant space, approximately 22,250 sq ft, commercial terms and/or leases have been agreed or signed for approximately 16,500 sq ft, which leaves approximately 6,000 square foot vacant.

"The majority of this is accounted for by the eleventh floor, which became vacant in November 2017. "This floor is currently being actively marketed with a number of potential tenants having expressed an interest."

Park Mall was bought by ABC
Park Mall was bought by ABC

One year after acquiring International House, ABC bought Park Mall to "to intervene in the town centre where the private sector had failed".

The shopping centre, which was being managed by Jones Lang LaSalle when it was bought by ABC, cost the authority £823,500.

The report says: "The council has made significant strides in turning the fortunes of the centre around and helping the centre to attract people to the town centre.

"At this time, the council intends to focus on developing the appeal of the centre and attracting retail providers that will bring additional footfall to the centre and to the town centre in general.

"In the longer term, the purchase of Park Mall will aid the council in its plans to redevelop this area of the town centre.

"At the time of writing, there are now only two vacant units with a lease on one of the vacant units expected to be signed imminently and discussions taking place with a number of potential retailers for the other.

"In addition, the number of charity shops has reduced to one and that covenants on the tenants for a number of the remaining units have been improved."

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