Bluewater shopping center in Kent, built in 1999, used to be the biggest shopping mall in Britain until it was overtaken in 2004 by the MetroCentre near Newcastle. But the retail property has stayed in the headlines for all sorts of other reasons.
In 2005, mall management famously decided it needed to ban young people wearing hooded sweatshirts (called “hoodies” by the kids) and baseball caps, as well as swear words—and ushered in a zero-tolerance approach to intimidation from scruffy teenage hooligans. With Kent police officers on hand and some 400 closed circuit television cameras in operation, shoppers at Bluewater must be among the best protected in the world. (To be fair to the teenage hoodlums, the security measures might also have something to do with the mall being the target of an al-Qaeda bombing plot.)
With the roustabouts out of the way, there have been plenty commercial developments at the mall as well. Russia’s largest lingerie retailer, Wild Orchid, opened its first British store at the center this past August. The complex also opened a railway ticket office recently for passengers wishing to use the Eurostar terminal at Ebbsfleet.
But of greater interest to property investors is that a stake in the center is suddenly up for grabs. Pension fund Hermes is trimming its exposure to UK commercial property as it looks to diversify overseas and, as part of the move, is reportedly selling interests worth £243 million (€348 million; $485 million) held in 10 separate unit trusts. One of them is in Bluewater and is said to be worth £30 million.
Secondary investors are circling to own a piece of the shopping mecca. Just make sure there aren’t any suspicious-looking kids milling around.