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Native Land Lines Up Major Shopping Centre Repurposing

The Grafton Centre in Cambridge

Developer Native Land is in exclusive talks to buy a 500K SF Cambridge shopping centre for what could be one of the UK’s most extensive retail repurposing schemes so far. 

The company is close to agreeing a deal with Legal & General to buy the Grafton centre for £65M, React News reported. Repurposing options include a £300M life sciences campus, and the site could become part of a wider £700M mixed-use development, React said.

Native Land made its name undertaking luxury residential schemes in London, before moving on to large mixed-use projects in the capital like its 2.5M SF Bankside Yards development on the south side of Blackfriars Bridge.

More recently it has moved into retail repurposing plays in affluent towns in the south east. In December, it bought a 230K SF former Debenhams department store in Guilford from M&G. 

Life sciences would be an obvious asset class to target in Cambridge, given the city’s world-famous university and the strong life sciences ecosystem that has already sprung up around it. Brockton and Oxford Properties have both recently bought life sciences assets in the city.

React said that around 80K SF in the existing centre could be used for life sciences labs, and that any buyer could take leases back from existing retailers and convert even more space to labs. 

On a wider scale, a masterplan has been drawn up to totally redevelop the Grafton centre plus surrounding offices and a bus station into a 1M SF scheme that would incorporate hotels, offices, lab space and residential space.