Confirmation of the closure of a landmark department store in Hull could present an opportunity for the creative use of an iconic site.
Paul White, Agency Director at Garness Jones, said the size and location of the House of Fraser building offer a range of options to continue the transformation of the city centre.
He said: “It’s a big building and one of the most significant retail sites in the city centre. For House of Fraser that became a challenge too far, but the closure will bring the opportunity to do something different.
“It is important to remember that the decision by House of Fraser to pull out is not a reflection on the appeal of Hull. The company’s problems have forced them to shut 31 of their larger stores around the country, whereas Hull has seen increased activity and confidence in the last couple of years.”
House of Fraser’s creditors have approved the company’s plan to close 31 of its 59 stores next year. Nearby, preparation work is under way for the demolition of the Edwin Davis and BHS buildings to clear the way for the Albion Street development. Paul said the future of the city centre hinges on bringing variety, as demonstrated by other developments in Hull and much further afield.
He said: “For some time the trends for city centres have been about moving away from traditional retail and converting properties for new uses which complement each other and drive sustainable development.
“We’ve completed a number of property transactions during the last two years which have been about changing the use of buildings from offices to residential, encouraging more people to live in the city centre and provide a customer base for the commercial businesses.
“There are many examples within St Stephen’s and Princes Quay of retail space being turned over for leisure use such as tenpin bowling and trampolining. Albion Street will combine retail, leisure and residential, and we are looking at some exciting new leisure projects elsewhere in the city centre.”
With good access on all sides for customers, staff and deliveries, Paul said the House of Fraser building is very versatile. He said: “Ultimately what happens next is down to the owners. Hull City Council will also have an important part to play and has shown with other developments that it is in tune with the need to build on the improvements of recent years and continue to work towards creating an environment which will attract people into the city centre.
“Build costs are going up and we have to be creative with the space, but the House of Fraser building could still be broken up nicely to accommodate various different uses. Options could include offices, restaurants, retail, a hotel, a combination. There are examples around the world of buildings that accommodate all of those under one roof and operate successfully, 24 hours a day, as a result.”