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