Hat-trick of deals unlocks Houndshill extension

Contracts to secure a nine-screen cinema and new home for Wilko as part of the planned extension of the Blackpool shopping centre have been inked, while the council finalised a land acquisition to bring forward the project.

The deals pave the way for construction to start in March, after the council received £5m towards the £20m scheme from the Government’s shovel-ready projects fund last August. 

The council bought Houndshill Shopping Centre for £47.6m in 2019. The planned extension will feature a 22,000 sq ft store to be occupied by Wilko after its former home opposite Blackpool North train station was demolished to make way for a four-star Holiday Inn and Marco Pierre White restaurant as part of the ongoing Talbot Gateway regeneration. 

Hardware and household retailer Wilko has signed a 15-year lease on the Houndshill unit. 

Meanwhile, cinema operator MMC Cinemas has signed a 25-year lease to operate a nine-screen IMAX cinema that will also include a multimedia centre. 

The 40,000 sq ft cinema will hold 850-people and designs for the venue include flexible seating to allow screens to double as conference venue spaces, as well as an an e-sports café and designated incubator space for digital and media start-ups. 

John Sullivan, founder of MMC Cinemas, said: “Blackpool has an astonishing heritage as a leisure destination for the North West and this multimedia centre is set to recement that reputation.” 

Blackpool Talbot Gateway Hotel CGI

The former Wilko store was demolished to make way for a Holiday Inn hotel

The Houndshill extension will be built on the Tower Street car park, which the council has bought for an undisclosed sum from developer Coolsilk Property and Investment, which built the five-star Sands Venue Resort Hotel and Spa on Blackpool’s Promenade. 

The Houndshill project will also feature two restaurants totalling 3,760 sq ft and the council is in negotiations with potential operators. 

Lead contractor Graham is expected to complete the scheme by spring 2022. 

Cllr Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We have always made it very clear that our acquisition of the Houndshill was the first step in revitalising Blackpool town centre by introducing high-quality leisure attractions to complement the existing retail offer. 

“If the town centre is to prosper, we have to provide new reasons to attract residents and visitors. The signing of these three contracts paves the way for us to take a major step forward along that road.” 

Consultancy CBRE is the project manager and cost consultant for the project.

Last November, Blackpool Council was awarded £40m from Whitehall’s £3.6bn Towns Fund pot that will support additional town centre projects including the relocation of Blackpool Magistrates Court to unlock developer Nikal’s £300m Blackpool Central leisure attraction and the modernisation of Blackpool illuminations.

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This is really great news for the regeneration of Blackpool. This will also be a great addition to the Houndshill Centre now that Debenhams has announced the closure of all their stores and with them occupying a very large unit in the centre itself. The only negative I will say, is I hope this build progresses a lot quicker and smoother than the conference centre which has been plagued by delay after delay and a build of 18 months has turned into 4 – 5 years.

By Christopher

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