The Darwin Shopping Centre is the largest of the three main shopping centres in Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England, comprising approximately 17 per cent of the town centre's retail offer by leasable area.
It was built by John Laing Developments in 1989 and refurbished in 2002. It is due to undergo further refurbishment in a plan being devised by Chapman Taylor Architects as part of the New Riverside redevelopment.
The mall has shared a turbulent recent history with the Pride Hill and Riverside centres which came under common ownership in 2003 under Dunedin Property. Protego’s UK Actively Managed Shopping Centre Fund acquired the centres in 2006, serviced by a loan provided by Lehman Brothers. Defaulting on £82m of that loan, the centres entered receivership with the collapse of Lehman.
UK Commercial Property Trust (managed by Ignis Asset Management) took control of the three centres in March 2010 and is under management by Ignis and Shearer Property Group. The Darwin centre has been attributed a nominal value of £38.6m as part of the £63.6m purchase.
Marks & Spencer anchors the centre and is the largest unit by some way, featuring two retail floors and a mezzanine level. The former Woolworths is occupied by an H&M with 22,000 sq ft (2,000 m2) spread over two levels.
Principal tenants also include Home Bargains, Monsoon, Poundland, River Island, Topshop and W H Smith.
A Primark will occupy a 30,300 sq ft unit created by amalgamating nine units on the upper and middle levels of the centre, including the former JJB Sports and parts of the former T.K. Maxx store.
The centre is accessed directly from the pedestrianised shopping area in Shrewsbury town centre on Pride Hill. Further access can be gained via the dual frontages into the centre offered by W H Smith, Marks & Spencer and H&M. It is joined to the Riverside Mall and the Pride Hill Shopping Centre via a pedestrian walkway and Raven Meadows.
The centre is connected by a pedestrian link directly to council-owned multi-storey parking at 'Raven Meadows' and to the town bus station, which is in turn a short walk to Shrewsbury railway station.
The centre is an unusual example of a vertical mall. Similar to the Pride Hill Shopping Centre, it is built on the side of a steep hill and around the former outer walls of the nearby medieval castle. This geography and archaeology prevented the centres from being built as one contiguous arcade. Consequently, these centres together occupy seven floors split over two horizontal locations, connected with escalators, lifts and walkway bridges.
There has long been an ambition to physically link the Darwin and Pride Hill shopping centres through the development of vacant land between the sites. Referred to as the 'Gap site', a retail and leisure link development proposed by Morris Property, owners of the land, was granted full planning permission in 2006 prior to being sold to new owners. The onset of economic crisis ensured the scheme was put on hold. Dunedin, promoters of the scheme in 2005, put four branding proposals to the public vote in a high-profile marketing push for the renaming of the present centres following the new development's completion. The reconfigured centre would have been branded 'Castle Gate'.
Chapman Taylor Architects were hired by Shearer Property in October 2010 to devise plans for refurbishment as part of a wider renewal and redevelopment of the estate.