Sunday, 29 March 2020

Landlord says high street can be revived

THE owner of an empty retail unit in Wargrave says he wants to breathe life back into the high street.

John Hallett is looking for a new tenant for the premises on the corner of High Street and Church Street.

It was formerly occupied by the Robin’s Nest art gallery, which closed in January after five years.

Mr Hallett, who has owned the building for the last three years, says he will consider offers in the region of £12,000 per year for rental or he might open an estate agents there.

“I have been in two minds with what to do with it,” he said. “I have had enquiries from people about selling it but I would rather have the option to turn it into an estate agents. I would even consider a joint venture with someone.

“If I were to open an estate agents there, you could easily have another business on the other side of the unit, like a coffee shop. I could see that working very well there. I’m in no rush.”

Mr Hallett, who lives in Twyford, says he is optimistic that Wargrave will experience a resurgence following a long period of shop closures.

Last year, the Italian restaurant Da Toni closed after less than 12 months, having replaced the Haweli restaurant, which shut in June 2018.

In August, Victoria News, a newsagent and post office in Victoria Road, closed and permission was granted for the former Wargrave Antiques shop in High Street to be converted into residential use.

Mr Hallett said he was sad to see the gallery close but it presented him with an opportunity to explore other options.

He said: “It is in a very prominent location on the corner of the road and it is seen by lots of people when they are stopped at the traffic lights.

“Anything that is up for rental in Wargrave is always very popular. It is a popular commuter area, especially with Crossrail coming soon.

“I’m very positive about Wargrave but it needs to have the right mix of shops in order to improve.

“We have been in a recession for many years and hopefully we have a bit more clarity back in the market now. I believe the high street in most areas will go full circle as long as local people support it.

“Wargrave high street will be lost if you don’t use it. If there are a few brave people who can breathe life back into it then it could work.

“Suddenly the high street will look different to how it is now and that will bring more people in.

“It needs a sustained campaign over a few years for life to be breathed back into it. It needs help from local councils to encourage interest.

“I might be wrong and I might be being too optimistic. A lot of people have talked Wargrave down but I have had more calls for this unit than houses in a nice area of Reading.

“If there is no interest in Wargrave and it is all doom and gloom then I will look at going for a change of use but it is no good having empty shops.”

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