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Huge plans to redevelop vacant Sainsburys store at Rushmere creating over 70 jobs

Shops, cafes and restaurants, an office suite and state-of-the-art 24-hour gym are proposed to fill the 50,000 sq ft space which has been vacant since February 2022

The former Sainsbury’s store in Rushmere Shopping Centre in Craigavon is to be sub-divided into a range of new shops, cafes, restaurants, offices and a gym as part of a huge £1.8 million investment, Armagh I can reveal.

And the development, stretching to over 50,000 sq ft, would create over 70 new jobs for the area when up and running.

Proposals have been drawn up for the vacant unit – which closed over two years ago – and lodged with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council.

Speculation has been rife as to the future intended use of one of the shopping centre’s biggest outlets.

And now formal plans have come forward which should see it brought back into productive use.

The proposals are for the “redevelopment, reconfiguration and subdivision” of the former Sainsburys supermarket unit.

According to a supporting statement, the eight units which would emerge would be earmarked “for a range of main town centre uses”.

No intended tenants have been detailed at this stage.

A new state-of-the-art gym – with floorspace of close to 115,000 sq ft – and an office suite, just slightly bigger, are the largest elements of the plans.

But it is also intended to create three new retail units – one just over 10,000 sq ft and the others between 4,000sq ft and 5,000 sq ft.

Three new café/restaurants are also included in the overall scheme, the largest of these being just in excess of 2,600 sq ft and the smallest just shy of 2,000 sq ft.

Unit one – the largest of the three retail outlets – will use the former doorway serving the Sainsburys store, with internal access through the shopping centre’s mall.

A new shop front will be installed along the west facing elevation to permit ‘own door access’ to the remainder of the shops and cafe/restaurants.

A new entrance pod will be provided on the northern elevation to serve the gym, with a glazed panel inserted into the northwest corner of the building to maximise natural lighting.

According to the application: “New glazing will be installed along the east facing façade to ensure that the office is naturally lit. Access to it will be achieved through an existing doorway on the northern elevation and internal corridor through the reconfigured space.”

In October 2021, Sainsburys announced its intention to withdraw from the shopping centre and the
unit closed for good on February 26, 2022 with the loss of 97 jobs. It has remained vacant ever since.

The supporting statement explains that the proposals would see the development of a “modern private gymnasium in Craigavon’s town centre”, and a range of outlets for refreshment for shoppers using this part of the
shopping centre – a need previously met within the Sainsburys café.

There would be “smaller retail units that can be used on an unrestricted basis” and an office suite.

There is no additional parking planned, but the application says the 1,800 spaces existing on site should be “ample” for staff and customers of the new premises.

The statement, in urging ABC Council to approve plans, points to the benefits for the area.

It adds: “All but one of the new units will have their own access and mean they can trade outside the normal opening hours of the shopping centre if desired.

“The gymnasium, for example, will be open 24 hours a day and this will help to supplement the evening economy of the area.

“The proposal will represent a total investment of £1.8 million into the area and will create jobs for approximately 73 members of staff.

“It will also contribute to additional net rateable value for the council. All of these economic issues should be accorded weight in the decision-making process.”

The application has been made by Rushmere owners Killahoey Ltd and will now be advertised shortly.

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