A community group is looking to restore the fortunes of a Victorian shopping arcade with a £150,000 share offer.
The grade II listed Dewsbury Arcade, built in the west Yorkshire town in 1899, was once a popular, bustling site but fell into decline and was shut in 2016.
In 2020 Kirklees Council bought the arcade off its owners and was earlier this year awarded a £4.5m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund to repair its structural damage, with work due to start in 2024.
The council’s partner on the venture is the the Arcade Group, a community benefit society owned and run by its shareholder members. Formed by eight local business people and residents in 2020, it will run the site on a 10 year lease starting in 2025.
The team thinks it will be England’s first community-run shopping centre; UK wide, there is Rath Mor in Derry, run by community enterprise Creggan Enterprises since 1995.
With all the Lottery cash earmarked for structural work, the Arcade Group needs to raise funds to start up the business side of the venture.
Their ambition for the arcade – which comprises 16 small shops, four large end units, eight studios and office workspace – is to fill it with “interesting businesses, new to Dewsbury. Not take-aways, nail bars and vape shops”.
The group adds: “We will fix the rents and choose the sort of tenants we want, make sure the arcade is full and reinvest profits in the business. No more absentee landlords and sky-high rents. We will build back Dewsbury town centre in the only way possible – from the bottom up, with the backing of local people.
“All board members have experience of running a business and are well placed to manage your investment carefully,” says the group. “We want to involve as many people as we can, from all sections of the community, in running and shaping the arcade.”
It adds: “We want our shops and cafes to attract people back to the town centre. The desire to get out of the house, meet people, and do things hasn’t gone away, but the town has to reinvent itself as a place worth visiting and we can’t do that alone.
“The Arcade Group will work other businesses, landlords and the refurbished Market management to attract more businesses, put on events and pull people back. We’ve already got a World Food Festival and Vintage Day planned for next year.”
Minimum investment is £50, maximum £10,000. No interest will be paid on investments, but the group says if the business is successful, on request, it will attempt to repay investments within the first five years of operation
Kirklees Council is committed to investing £25,000 once the public investment reaches £75,000, and an application to Co-operatives UK for equity investment is also under consideration.
Click here to view the share offer Document, business plan and rules
More details of the project, plus risk register and marketing plan, at arcade-dewsbury.org