AEW to transform Windsor into a crown jewel

Plans for the facelift of Windsor, Royal residence of newly crowned King Charles III, received a boost after AEW UK Investment Management bought a second prominent retail and leisure site in the town.


In a deal completed in August AEW acquired the Windsor Royal Station, home to Windsor & Eton Central rail station. GCW provided purchase support advice on the recent acquisition, formulating a leasing strategy for the asset.


This follows on from the global real estate investor’s purchase in May 2021 of the 260,000sq ft Windsor Yards shopping centre in the town centre, on behalf of its Urban Real Estate Strategy (UREF), part of a £68m investment.


As a result, GCW’s leasing mandate has been extended to include Windsor Royal Station, where the aim for the listed station building is to improve the tenant mix, with more aspirational names, overall enhancing the offer.


The historic Grade II Windsor Royal Station building dates to 1849 and was completely rebuilt in 1897 by the Great Western Railway for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, with a much grander frontage. In 1997, the building was privately purchased and converted into a shopping destination. Additional shops were added, providing a contemporary style, extending the centre to 142,000 sq ft.


Over 40 shops and continental style restaurants, cafes, and bars make-up the tenant mix. These include high street retailers Hobbs, Whistles, Phase Eight, Jigsaw, Space NK, and Sweaty Betty. On the leisure side, the centre is a primary bar & restaurant pitch for the town, housing Bills, Café Rouge, Cattle Grid and All Bar One in addition to an eclectic mix of quality independent occupiers.


“Windsor Royal Station has stunning architecture, so it's a case of going back to the heritage of the building, and making better use of the space, while being sympathetic to its character.


In April, the upgrade for Windsor Yards was approved by the Royal Borough’s Windsor & Ascot development management committee, which will see an added apart- hotel, flats, cinema, extension to an existing Travelodge and multi-story car park and add new public realm.


“AEW can now deliver on a wider strategic plan for the town because both Windsor Royal Station, and Windsor Yards are in their ownership. Overall, the aim is by delivering a boutique cinema this will enhance the food & beverage offer for an improved nighttime economy,” said Nick Warr, partner, GCW who acted for AEW on Windsor Royal Station.


He added: “From a brand perspective, AEW are going to keep Yards, and the Station as separate identities.”


This comes at a time when the town has experienced a renaissance, being boosted over the last two years by the return of tourists post pandemic. The correction of rents and the reduction in business rates has made Windsor more affordable for occupiers.


It has meant an increased demand and a hike in the number of transactions with GCW completing over 20 deals in this period, including attracting several new brands, like Ole & Steen, Brook Taverner, Clarendon Fine Art, Oliver Bonas and Mango.


Windsor deals


Badiani, the Italian gelato maker established in 1932, have now opened at 13 Peascod Street, taking a unit of c. 1000 sq ft to serve their award-winning range of gelato, desserts and pastries. It is the chain’s 13th outlet opening since coming to the UK in 2015, and one of the first outside of London. GCW advised the landlord on the letting, securing a new 10-year lease and a 25% increase over the previous  rent passing.


“Badiani will be a great addition to Peascod Street and Windsor, and I’m looking forward to trying one of their gelatos!” said Archie Morriss, director, GCW.


Fashion brand Mango, has taken a new unit at Windsor Yards, reinforcing the centre as the prime fashion pitch in the town.


In May, Mango unveiled plans to open 13 UK stores, with the fashion retailer taking the former 10,000 sq ft NEW LOOK unit.