The troubled High Street Mall in Portadown is to be completely transformed with a new £4 million investment which will include the introduction of a new ‘plaza’ aimed at helping to reverse its flagging fortunes.
And central to the proposals will be the opening of a replacement anchor store – Lidl – taking over following the closure three years ago of Dunnes.
A number of top retailers have left the Mall over recent years.
Now fresh proposals – which are being recommended for approval – will see the size of the overall High Street Mall being reduced by almost 3,000 sq metres.
But these will, the developers say, provide better links with the existing town centre traders and draw in more customers for businesses already on site.
An application had been submitted in the name of Hillsborough-based Brittas Property Ltd.
It would see the “redevelopment of High Street Mall” and will include “partial demolition” of the shopping centre to form an external plaza. This is largely in the area in front of Home Bargains and Gordon’s Chemists and will see the construction of replacement units on the opposite side to facilitate changes.
The proposal involves internal and external alterations with new facades and extended pedestrian entrances to the car park and Woodhouse Street.
Amendments would also be made to access, as well as the reconfiguration of the service yard, the addition of a new loading bay or dock and service ramp, with amended customer ramp and ancillary works.
According to an accompanying statement drawn up by leading consultancy Gravis Planning, the overall proposals will help attract new shops, safeguard existing jobs and “revitalise the mall”.
It points to the significant knock-on effects which the economic downturn and departure of Dunnes had on High Street Mall.
But it adds that the changes proposed will reverse the trend which has left half the units on site vacant and bring in ‘new faces’ of a commercial nature.
Gravis, in their correspondence, explain: “The current application aims to revitalise the mall through improvement of the retail offer and shopper experience.
“The current proposals include Lidl becoming the new anchor tenant for the mall. This is a great news story for the mall which is expected to act as a catalyst in attracting further retailers and thereby improve the vitality and viability of the mall and the wider town centre generally by making the town centre more attractive as a retail destination and thereby attracting more footfall.
“In addition, the proposed new outdoor plaza within the mall will significantly improve the aesthetic appearance providing an enhanced shopper experience.
“Linking directly on to Woodhouse Street, the plaza will also have the effect of improving the mall’s linkages with the town centre streets, helping to attract shoppers which will also help to strengthen the mall as a shopping destination, which in turn will further strengthen the vitality and viability of the town centre.”
The demolition work and introduction of a central plaza would reduce floorspace from a gross of 12,933 sq metres to 10,012 sq metres. This final figure actually includes the addition of over 1,000 sq metres of ‘new-build’ accommodation after demolition works have taken place.
Overall, Gravis Planning say the proposals would bring “significant economic benefits for the mall and wider town centre” and will represent an investment of “at least £4 million”.
The submission adds: “The overall revitalisation of the mall will also help to safeguard and protect those jobs and businesses that remain in the mall.”
One letter of support for the development has been submitted by SDLP Upper Bann MLA Dolores Kelly who said it would “undoubtedly reinvigorate the town centre and the retail experience for customers”.
The securing of Lidl as a new anchor tenant was, Mrs Kelly added, a “clear vote of confidence in Portadown’s retail sector”.
The planning application is being recommended for approval by officials at ABC Council.
It will be up to councillors at the next planning committee sitting to decide whether or not to ‘buy into’ that opinion.”