Inside Debenhams - Owner's hope to begin filling by end of year

A look around the former Debenhams in Ipswich.

No more shoppers: The silent escalators in the former Debenhams store in Ipswich - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

As work to strip out the former Debenhams store in the heart of Ipswich continues, its new owner hopes to have some parts of the building occupied again by next Christmas.

We have been given access to the building to see how the work is progressing.

A look around the former Debenhams in Ipswich

Clearing out the former Ipswich Debenhams is now well under way. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

The building was bought for £3m by Cambridgeshire-based Unex last May shortly before the store closed its doors for the last time and the company has been working on redevelopment plans since then.

Last October managing director Adrian Morris said it was looking at a number of potential uses - including health or fitness related - on the first and second floors.

A look around the former Debenhams in Ipswich.

Caretaker Chris Dickey in the former Ipswich Debenhams store. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

But he hoped the ground floor would converted into smaller units for retail or cafe/restaurant use - and that some could be occupied towards the end of the year.

A look around the former Debenhams in Ipswich.

The ground floor is being stripped out at the former Debenhams in Ipswich. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Unex has been working with the borough council and potential tenants on plans for the building and there is interest in turning its basement into a new entertainment venue, Mr Morris confirmed.

He said: "We are in discussion with a number of potential occupiers, with uses including restaurants on the ground floor some opening on to Lloyds Avenue benefitting from the potential part pedestrianisation of Lloyds Avenue, and a mix of office, medical heath and well-being uses on the upper floors. 

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"We are in the process of stripping the building back to shell which should be completed by April.  I would expect this time next year there will be occupiers in the building and/or fitting out for occupation."

A look around the former Debenhams in Ipswich.

The top of the escalators in the former Ipswich Debenhams - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

There are regular talks between the developers and officials from Ipswich Council about possible changes to the building and Mr Morris said he was very pleased about the help his company was getting from local authorities as it prepares its plans.

There are proposals that the paved area at the bottom of Lloyds Avenue could be extended to create an area for outdoor dining - and the turning point for taxis could be moved further up Lloyds Avenue.

A look around the former Debenhams in Ipswich.

The former travel desk is being removed from Debenhams in Ipswich. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

The redevelopment of what was the largest store in the town centre is seen as vital for the future of Ipswich - and the ambition to turn it into a "connected town" with more people living in and near the central area.

A look around the former Debenhams in Ipswich.

Stripping out is well under way in some parts of the former Debenhams store. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown.

A look around the former Debenhams in Ipswich.

No more shoppers in the former Debenhams store in Ipswich. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown


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