House of Fraser landmark in Plymouth back on market for £3m as prior deal 'falls through'

The House of Fraser department store in Plymouth City Centre
-Credit: (Image: Penny Cross)

Plymouth's House of Fraser building is back on the market for a reduced price of £3m, after a deal to buy the landmark appears to have fallen through

In August 2022, reports suggested that an imminent sale of the six-storey block, which also includes a basement, was in the pipeline for over £4m. However, no further updates on the purchase were provided and now the property is up for grabs again, with potential for reconfiguration and additional floors. Property consultancy Allsop has been tasked with selling the lease of the department store building for "in the region" of £3m.

The 183,689 sq ft building initially hit the market in May 2022, with offers sought "in excess of £4m". It quickly garnered interest and by three months later, commercial agents informed PlymouthLive that "a deal has been agreed", but it seems the contract was never signed, reports Plymouth Live.

Now, the building and its neighbouring four small retail units on New George Street, totalling 14,398sq ft, are back on sale. Three of these units are vacant while one is occupied by Menkind.

The main department store is currently leased to SDI (Propco 46) Ltd, trading as House of Fraser, under a licence at a peppercorn rent. The licence can be terminated with six months notice by either party.

Allsop is advertising an "opportunity to reconfigure a landmark building" and "repurpose the site". A sale brochure said: "There is exceptional appetite from both investors and the Plymouth (City) Council to rejuvenate Plymouth city centre and the subject property will play a pivotal part in increasing the city centre's offering."

It continues: "There is a clear opportunity for a purchaser to re-purpose the site. Plymouth is currently undergoing one of the most major city revamps for generations with projects in the pipeline worth £1bn over the next 10-15 years."

The brochure explains: "The local council is heavily investing in a series of regeneration schemes designed to bring more people into the city centre, attract new jobs and build more homes, including affordable and social housing."

The brochure added that buildings fronting Old Town Street and Royal Parade to the east of Armada Way, should be refurbished sensitively to update and expand the retail spaces and attract "new complementary uses" to the upper floors, under council policy, adding: "Expansion of existing spaces will be enabled by internal reconfiguration, extension of the buildings to the rear and/or the sensitive inclusion of additional floors."

It said development should provide the possibility of adding storeys, up to a maximum building height of eight floors. The overall property is held on two separate leasehold titles, with the House of Fraser building having a term of 125 years from January 1992 currently with 93 years unexpired. The remaining four units are on a 999-year lease from December 2007, with 983 years unexpired.

Plymouth City Council is the freeholder and "would be prepared to discuss a headlease extension" on the House of Fraser portion of the building with a prospective buyer. In 2016, British Land acquired the sprawling city centre retail block for £67 million, encompassing shops from Old Town Street down to Armada Way, including the now-defunct Debenhams and House of Fraser department stores.

The Debenhams building was put up for sale in 2021 with a £3.5 million asking price after the chain closed its entire UK portfolio, resulting in around 12,000 job losses. Essex-based developer BuildVantage Ltd has since submitted plans to add a two-storey extension to the building's roof.

They also propose demolishing and reconstructing part of the rear to improve natural light for flats slated for the former upper-floor sales area.

The Plymouth branch of House of Fraser was slated for closure in 2018, but was rescued when billionaire Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley purchased the chain out of administration, subsequently renaming it Frasers Group. The company, primarily known for trading under the Sports Direct brand, also owns Jack Wills, GAME, Flannels, USC, Lillywhites and Evans Cycles.

In March this year, the substantial city centre building housing Tesco Express and TK Maxx saw nearly £2m cut from its asking price after failing to sell. The property, which fronts onto New George Street, Royal Parade and Bedford Way, was initially listed in June 2022 for £6.31m but was later re-advertised at a reduced price of £4.5m.

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