The council is set to sign off its purchase of the former BHS store in the town centre as it moves forward with its overhaul of the Merseyway shopping centre.
Stockport first revealed it was looking to buy the BHS around six months ago and entered into an exclusivity agreement with the building’s owner in November last year.
This was due to expire in February but the council negotiated an extension of four months to allow it to sign off the purchase, and to potentially secure pre-lets.
The ownership includes the former BHS store, which is now let to Poundland; 18-20 Merseyway, let to Optical Express; and the freehold of 14-16 Merseyway, where the council already has the leasehold.
In a report to its economy and regeneration scrutiny committee, the council said: “The building currently presents a poor amenity to Merseyway and further, contributes to poor perceptions of the centre. The building is in a poor physical condition and looks dated and scruffy.”
CBRE has been advising the council on the acquisition, which is likely to be followed by a full refurbishment for any new tenants; the committee is due to discuss the report at a meeting next week, before the purchase heads to full council for approval.
The move is the latest in a series of interventions by the council in and around the Merseyway.
The council bought the struggling 300,000 sq ft shopping centre out of administration in April 2017, and the past year has seen a number of high-profile store closures including BHS, Marks & Spencer, New Look, and Next.
Stockport’s cabinet first approved an action plan for the shopping centre in December 2017 and the council last October outlined its next steps to help revitalise the area, which has benefitted from the opening of Redrock, the town’s neighbouring cinema and leisure development.
Chief amongst these is the redevelopment of the former Next block which forms a prominent part of the shopping centre. The council is proposing to split this unit into four, based on three secured pre-lets, and refurbish the building’s façade. This work is likely to commence once heads of terms are agreed with the tenants, who have not yet been named.
A new access core is also set to be installed which will allow direct access from the centre’s car park into Adlington Walk; the council said this would have a knock-on effect of improving access to the centre from Chestergate, Great Underbank, and the old town.
The shopping centre has been able to attract tenants including Tessuti, which opened a 5,000 sq ft unit before Christmas. Others, including Thorntons, EE, WH Smith, and TUi have also committed to lease renewals at the site, while the council said “discussions with other operators” were continuing.