‘Get real’ on rents or face voids, warns TCS chief

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EDWARD Ziff has called on commercial property landlords to “get real” over rental expectations or face losing out in the occupational market.

And the chairman and chief executive of Town Centre Securities also revealed that the company was in discussions to re-open the empty Merrion Hotel in Leeds city centre.

It is also in discussions with Leeds City Council to refurbish Merrion House and is working on plans to revamp the Merrion Centre car park.

Mr Ziff was speaking to TheBusinessDesk.com after the Leeds-based property group reported “robust” half year results yesterday.

The company is the owner of the Merrion Centre in Leeds and Mr Ziff said the group had managed to increase occupancy levels to 97.9% across its portfolio in a difficult climate.

Footfall at the Merrion Centre is up by 8% and TCS has confirmed that it is to open seven new shops that will face the Leeds Arena.

Mr Ziff said much of the healthy take-up levels – which include having had to fill more than 30 voids because of High Street casualties – was a result of sensible rental levels by TCS.

“The bottom line is property owners need to get real,” he said. “Rents are quite difficult to call but we are offering a certain price at Merrion and others are offering higher and they are wondering why they can’t fill retail and office space.”

Commenting on future plans for the group, Mr Ziff said development activity wasn’t dependant on economic conditions improving as TCS was in a strong financial position.

He said the company was in discussions with an occupier so that the Merrion Hotel, next to the shopping centre, could be re-opened.

And despite a deal for a budget hotel and offices to be built on Whitehall Road in Leeds falling through, Mr Ziff is confident of progress at the site being made over the coming months.

“If you take some of the other buildings on Whitehall Road, such as No 1 Leeds, you see they’re letting well,” he said. “If you develop the right quality of space regardless of market conditions you will let it at the right rental and the right return and that is a fact as much as night follows day.”

He added that other projects in the area would be taken forward if the right level of pre-let activity could be satisfied.