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Half-Vacant UK Shopping Centre To Become 500K SF Life Sciences Scheme

Pioneer's conversion of the Grafton Centre in Cambridge

Developer Pioneer Group has won planning consent to turn a 1980s-era shopping centre in Cambridge into a huge new life sciences scheme. 

The Cambridge City Council voted earlier this week to approve plans that will see the Grafton Centre in the centre of the university city converted into a mixed-use scheme, with two-thirds of the space given over to life sciences. 

It is one of the first projects in the UK that will see a shopping centre converted into life sciences space. Cambridge is among the markets seeing hot demand from tenants in the sector. 

Bisnow is holding the UK's largest life science real estate conference at British Land's 1 Triton Square scheme on 6 March. Click here to attend.

Part of the centre will be demolished, and part will be retained and retrofitted, a strategy that Pioneer said would avoid the emission of 18,500 tonnes of carbon that knocking the whole thing down and building an entirely new scheme would generate. 

The new scheme will total 756K SF, of which 518K SF will be labs and life sciences office space. Another 112K SF will be retail, and the remainder will be taken up by a gym, hotel and cinema.

Pioneer said the life sciences part of the scheme will house companies that could employ more than 2,000 people. 

The company said it plans to create a sustainable research ecosystem linking startups, experts and entrepreneurs in the life sciences sector and a new community science lab/classroom with a programme of community outreach and science, technology, engineering and maths investment.

Corstorphine & Wright designed the scheme, and Bidwells advised Pioneer on planning and design.