Harlequin shopping centre, Watford

Published:  31 March, 2011

Phase III of the Harlequin opened on June 16 1992 adding 60 units to the scheme and facilitating major refits for the three main anchors.

The Harlequin in Watford was fully opened following the completion of Phase III on June 16 1992.

The scheme was co-developed by Capital & Counties and Sun Alliance Group Properties in partnership with Watford Borough Council. The third phase of the two-level centre added 232,000 sq ft (60 units) – and coincided with refits of the three main anchors M&S, BhS and Littlewoods - bringing the centre to 707,000 sq ft in total.

The £100m centre joins on to Charter Place shopping centre, a 200,000 sq ft scheme built by Watford Council in the mid-1970s.

Phase III tenants included Hennes, Mothercare, Ravel, River Island, Superdrug and the Disney Store. The centre also featured a seven kiosk, 380-seat foodcourt, run by CapCo, with tenants on short-term lets.

Letting agents Healey & Baker and Molyneux Rose said that 88 per cent of the GLA was let at the time of opening – a commitment from retailers to 121 of the 166 units.

The developers faced limitations including moving the John Lewis Partnership’s Trewins store, which occupied part of the original site, to its new anchor premises and redeveloping ten listed 16th century buildings on the High Street – the lower levels of which were turned into Pizza Express and other retail units.

The centre opened with a range of shopper facilities including mother and baby rooms, a children’s playgroup area and facilities for the disabled.

The developers invested £650,000 in a tunnel access to the £30m M1 link road, due to open the following year, in the hope that it would bring 2.5 million people into a 20-minute drive-time catchment.

The Harlequin has evolved since its opening and now accounts for 60 per cent of the retail in Watford town centre with current tenants including Karen Millen, Accessorise, The Body Shop, Clas Ohlson, Waterstones, John Lewis, M&S, Primark, Hotel Chocolat, BhS, Office, Next and French Connection.

Operations manager Vicki Costello lists extended trading hours, a dynamic tenant mix, a strong entertainment package, and a clean and secure mall, as having ensured the centre has evolved from “just a town centre location” to a regional shopping destination.

“2011 will see the introduction of a new creative concept which fuses chic, contemporary and friendly photography with intelligent, interactive and entertaining illustration,” says marketing manager, Erin Walsh. “Paramount to the campaign is the ability to reinforce The Harlequin brand, highlight the superb retail mix, and communicate practical aspects such as opening hours, facilities and special events.”

“With many of the current tenants undergoing modernisation and shop fitting schemes, there is a strong display of confidence at The Harlequin,” adds Costello. “This bodes well for the future and The Harlequin looks forward to developing the dynamic retail mix on offer and exploiting the opportunity to build strong relationships with its core shoppers.”

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