What To Do With Shopping Centres? SoftBank-Backed REEF's Answer Makes Its London Debut
The pressures created by the last year of pandemic lockdowns have helped persuade Capital & Regional to give the Florida business a try.
REEF, which specialises in reanimating underused urban spaces like car parks and shopping centres, already has a significant presence in the United States and Canada. It operates across a network of more than 4,500 locations that are embedded in local communities in more than 200 cities.
In November 2020, REEF confirmed a $700M growth equity funding from a group of investors including SoftBank and Mubadala Investment Company, and a $300M joint infrastructure vehicle to acquire strategic real estate assets via its newly established Neighbourhood Property Group.
The combined $1B will facilitate both the further development of its platform and accelerate its U.S. and global expansion.
The transaction with Capital & Regional is the first time REEF will bring its full suite of alternate uses and car park management systems to shopping centres in the UK and initially covers its 900K SF Luton and 540K SF Wood Green shopping centres.
Discussions are also underway about bringing the alternate uses to Capital & Regional’s Walthamstow and Ilford centres.
REEF neighbourhood hubs will provide a range of innovative tech-enabled goods and services to the surrounding areas.
This could include neighbourhood kitchens introducing new brands to the local area, or even to the UK for the first time. REEF is also set to announce a number of new restaurant partners that will be joining its delivery-only platform.
The Capital & Regional deal might also lead to urban farms, using vertical hydroponic agricultural technology to grow local produce. The partners are also looking at the creation of smart transit hubs offering e-bikes, scooters and electric vehicle charging.
However, the eye-catching and potentially money-spinning element comes from last-mile logistics, storage and fulfilment, including digital lockers. This will involve REEF’s couriers and trademark e-scooter cargo fleet delivering packages quickly and cleanly as it grows its micro-distribution network.
“We are also acutely aware of the need to innovate and embrace the benefits of technology to ensure our shopping centres fulfil their potential to play a vital role in the growing digitalisation of local economies, which has accelerated in the last year,” Capital & Regional Chief Executive Lawrence Hutchings said.
“We believe this innovative new agreement provides a blueprint for how community shopping centres can fully embrace and benefit from the digital economy in the future, while continuing to fulfil the vital role as physical destinations.”
REEF said it will drive commercial value.
Capital & Regional owns seven shopping centres in Blackburn, Hemel Hempstead, Ilford, Luton, Maidstone, Walthamstow and Wood Green.