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Union Square’s owner moves forward plans for its sale

How much will Aberdeen's largest shopping centre fetch?
How much will Aberdeen's largest shopping centre fetch?

Property giant JLL is understood to have been tasked with finding a buyer for Union Square shopping centre in Aberdeen.

React News has reported a price tag of £150 million, but this may include other assets.

The Press and Journal revealed earlier this year that Union Square was being lined up for a sale by its owner, Hammerson, which recently netted £70m – for its 50% stake – from the sale of Silverburn shopping centre in Glasgow.

Hammerson has also recently completed the sale of Victoria Gate and Victoria shopping centres in Leeds – in a £120 million deal – as part of its strategy to dispose of non-core assets.

The company has raked in more than £620m from disposals since the start of 2021.

Its appointment of an agent for Union Square comes just a few months after Beach Boulevard Retail Park in Aberdeen changed hands in a deal believed to be worth £60m.

The retail park’s new owner is California-based Realty Income Corporation (RIC), a property trust that invests in free-standing, single-tenant commercial properties in the US, UK and Spain.

Beach Boulevard Retail Park.

RIC acquired the site from abrdn – formerly Standard Life Aberdeen – following a hotly-contested bidding process, according to real estate industry website React News.

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group put Berryden Retail Park in Aberdeen up for sale earlier this year as part of a portfolio expected to fetch upwards of £320m.

And Savills was instructed to put the former John Lewis department store in Aberdeen city centre on the market, with some experts predicting a price tag of around £5 million.

Aerial view of the old John Lewis department store in Aberdeen.

Meanwhile, Centrepoint Retail Park, off Berryden Road, and the new indoor market planned for the city centre are among other sites currently up for sale in the Granite City.

Whatever price Union Square fetches, it is likely to be substantially less than the £275m  development value of the shopping centre around the time of it opening in October 2009.

Union Square.

Union Square is Aberdeen’s largest shopping and leisure destination, with the city’s railway and bus stations on its doorstep.

It is home to more than 50 top fashion and high street favourites including Zara, Marks and Spencer and H&M, as well as iconic brands such as Apple, Hugo Boss and Levi’s.

The centre – boasting nearly 560,000sq ft of retail and leisure space – also houses more than 30 restaurants and a 2,400-seat Cineworld cinema. It is visited by more than 15 million people a year.

Hammerson and JLL both declined to comment on the prospect of Union Square being sold.

Why buy a shopping centre now?

Retail parks and some shopping centres are widely seen as a safer bet than high street stores in the current investment market, with many of the latter struggling to counter the impacts of Covid-19 and online shopping.

In a review of Scottish commercial property earlier this year, the Ryden agency said the retail market was “nuanced” but continuing to contract overall.

According to Ryden, shopping centre buyers now tend to be drawn towards sites suited to “repositioning”, or with redevelopment angles, and those geared towards convenience.

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