Providing an insight into the exciting developments of Mell Square in an interview with Rob Hemus, IM Properties.
Mell Square Asset Manager Rob Hemus has been with the centre's owner, IM Properties, for five years, during which time IM has spent over £75m acquiring and investing in the square and its surrounding 'gateways' to make it more appealing and welcoming to shoppers.
Here, Solihull-born Rob tells us how Mell Square is changing to meet the demands of modern-day shoppers.
One of the town centre's most significant developments in recent years is the four-storey St Alphege Place at the corner of the High Street and Drury Lane South buildings, having recently secured planning which will see more units converted to A3 food and beverage usage, subject to vacant possession.
St Alphege Place will feature new Carluccio's Italian restaurant on the ground floor with Grade A offices in the three levels above.
Rob describes the corner plot, which links Mell Square to the High Street, as a 'key gateway' for Solihull town centre.
IM Properties takes pride in the delivery of its projects and has a long-term vision to help maintain Solihull's position as a key destination and work place.
"As a business, we pride ourselves on delivery." explained Rob.
"We like to build relationships, with the council and retailers being a key focus at Mell Square. St Alphege Place is a good example of this and will act as a catalyst for other schemes, such as the A3 plans for Drury Lane South.
"We want to keep the momentum going, to build the trust, to say we're here for the long-term. We want to 'get on with it' and bring projects forward, which is why we would like to see the public realm improved, as it supports our wider vision, along with the aspirations of the council and the town centre masterplan.
"We're keen to look at the Mell Square public realm as a whole, because it needs to be a better space for shoppers to dwell and enjoy. It also needs to have a usable and contemporary civic space for town centre events," added Rob.
"The combination of the new Carluccio's restaurant and the Grade A offices above is a perfect statement for our intent for Mell Square.
"We want to create a vibrant, contemporary mixed-use location that will help to drive Solihull's continued prosperity.
IM Properties has spent more than £100,000 on community and family events in Mell Square. These have included summer activities such as The Solihull Garden Festival, Sunnyhull Summer, Solihull's first open-air Ice Rink in 2015 and Halloween events, including a pop up cinema and trick or treat trail.
"Since IM bought Mell Square we've had events every summer, including chef Glynn Purnell at the Garden Festival," said Rob.
"These have been great and it's something we're planning to do more of."
IM has also recently invested in Drury Lane near House of Fraser with new lighting, signage and rebranding Drury Arcade, to help support the area's independent retailers.
Meanwhile, across the square, the removal of the old 'Carphone Warehouse' bridge is giving Mill Lane a decluttered feel.
Another area of attention is Poplar Way; a key entrance to the square for visitors using public transport and nearby car parks, and the vacant Norwich House office block.
"We've taken back six units to create three bigger units in Poplar Way and have a deal lined up with Poundland to open." said Rob.
"Add this to a line-up that includes M&S, Clarks, New Look, Sainsbury's and welcoming back Poundland, and it's a really strong retail offering.
"As a value destination Poplar Way works really well but we will always be looking to improve the mall itself.
"We're also looking to invest in the vacant Norwich House office building on Poplar Road, to relaunch as 45 Poplar Road. There's lots of opportunity here.
"Our focus at the moment is delivery of the Carluccio's building to be open in early 2017, Poplar Way will be a project for delivery in 2017 and then targeted for 2018 will be our next phase of A3 on Drury Lane South."