SHOCKED traders at Wolverton’s Agora have been given two weeks’ notice to quit before the centre closes.
And now there are fears the death knell will sound for the town.
They also predict the hub of the community Agora will be demolished to make way for profit-making apartments.
The centre, originally branded a white elephant, was built in 1979 as a skating rink.
After a decade it was transformed into a retail centre, with traders renting individual units around a large market-style facility on the former rink.
The place quickly became a popular venue for bargain-hunting shoppers.
“We are very much a part of community. People come here to shop, have a chat and have a coffee or meal at the cafe,” said Karen Parisi, who has run CP Locks with her husband Colin for 23 years.
Last year though the private businessman who owned Agora went into liquidation and official receivers Baker Tilly took charge.
The shops, many of them family-run, continued to pay their rent to Baker Tilly and were told the centre could stay open if it proved viable.
But before Christmas the main tenant, who ran the market area, moved out.
“As individual shops, the rest of us were still doing fine. We were hoping new tenants could be found for the empty spaces and the Agora would remain open,” said Karen.
On Monday Baker Tilly called all 30 tenants to a meeting and dropped the bombshell.
Every store apart from the Co-op must pack up and leave by 5.30pm on June 20.
Baker Tilly say the Co-op will continue to trade as normal.
The company has waived the rent for that fortnight but said it cannot return deposits or rent in advance paid to the private owner in the past.
For some, such as the Sunny Side Cafe, that means the loss of £5,000.
Wolverton residents fear the town will never recover.
One said: “The official receiver will want to make the maximum amount of money to pay off the owner’s debts – and that can only mean a housing or office development.
“My guess it that it will be apartments. Meanwhile, we are losing the centre of our community.”
The oldest tenants, CP Locks and pet suppliers Paws and Claws, have already snapped up a shop in Church Street and plan to share it.
This week a Baker Tilly spokesman blamed the economic downturn.
He said: “The decision to close the Agora Centre was made after much consideration on its performance so far this year.
“We know that the Agora Centre is a well known and important local amenity and it is with regret we have to close the building.”
He said the administrators were seeking a purchaser and “hopeful” of a sale.
Bletchley Agora, run by a different company, is not affected.