A SHOPPING precinct which made headlines for the highest number of empty units in the country is bouncing back.
Park Parade and Greywell Precinct, in Leigh Park town centre, had some of the highest numbers of empty shops in the country – with some standing empty for more than 20 years.
But that has dramatically changed under landlord Mark Smith who has bought up large numbers of empty units in the so-called ghost town and let them out at low rents to encourage businesses back tot he area.
Sixty of the 80 shops are now let – so 25 per cent are empty compared to 36 per cent two years ago.
Now the eyesore former Netto building, at the top end of Park Parade, has been given a new lease of life and changed into five shops.
Mr Smith is seeking permission to make the rear of the large building into an indoor play area.
Buy Sell Baby, L & P Carpets, Big Girls Clothing and Little Cherubs will be opened by Mayor of Havant, Councillor Paul Buckley, on October 1 at 10am.
Mr Smith, who owns 19 shops said: ‘Netto was a total eyesore. To date I’ve spent £75,000 on it.
‘Four shops are opening next week and the reason is because I’m proactive.
‘We approach successful businesses and invite them to come to Park Parade.
‘We pick suitable businesses that will survive and thrive in the area. It’s perfect for independent businesses.
‘We offer lower rents and flexible leases.
‘They aren’t tied to long leases and if the business doesn’t work they can leave.’
Mr Smith said he would like his formula copied in high streets across the country.
And he is writing to the owners of long-term empty units in Greywell Precinct – where he owns two units – to explain to them how he is doing so well in Park Parade.
He said: ‘We are doing well even though Peacocks, Nationwide and a large doctors’ surgery all left within the past two years.
‘We give a lot of support to our tenants and we don’t mind spending money on the properties. It should be adopted across the country because what happens in the town centre has an impact across the town.’