Debenhams Bristol: Mayor gives update on potential sale almost a year on from closure

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Marvin Rees says talks are continuing with the prospective buyers

The potential buyer for the former Debenhams store in Bristol city centre remains locked in discussions with the city council over the future use of the huge site.

Following the closure of the six-storey department store in May, the ‘preferred bidder’ was selected in October and an announcement was expected in the weeks that followed.

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However, discussions in public on the deal have gone quiet. This Sunday (May 15) marks a year since the store shut for the final time.

Nick Allan, from commercial property agents Cushman and Wakefield, has been marketing the property deal for the former Debenhams site. When approached this week, Mr Allan said the sales process was ‘ongoing and will be for a short while longer’.

And at a press briefing today (May 11), city mayor Marvin Rees revealed the prospective buyers were still in discussions with the city council on the use of the site, which was recently listed as a point of focus in plans to revitalise the centre of the city.

Debenhams in Broadmead closed in May this yearDebenhams in Broadmead closed in May this year
Debenhams in Broadmead closed in May this year | BristolWorld

The plans form part of the City Centre Development and Delivery Plan, which is a vision for the city centre up to 2050.

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Mr Rees told BristolWorld: “We’ve been very clear that whatever happens with Debenhams has to fit within our plans for the city centre.

“We’ve been out talking to people, opening the door, asking people to come forward with their ideas on what the centre of the city needs to look like - the future of that city centre around Broadmead is going to be more mixed.

“It is going to be a mix of destinations, there’s going to be a residential in there as well as some retail - but we have too much retail space in the city anyway.”

He added: “What I can tell you is that the conversations [with the prospective buyers of the former Debenhams store] are ongoing.

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“They are obviously looking to get the return on their investment, we say we recognise you need to get that return but what happens to that building has to be in line with Bristol’s broader needs and ambitious.”

Back in November, Mr Rees, after meeting the prospective buyers, said they were looking at ‘various options’ for the site. It is believed residential was one of the options being considered.

The council’s City Centre Development and Delivery Plan aims ‘to ensure Bristol’s city centre is fit for the future’.

The first round of informal engagement runs until May 23. Comments posted so far on an interative map include suggesting turning the former Debenhams into a luxury hotel with apartments or a ‘Vegas-style casino’ with chandeliers and water features.

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Another comment urges the council to keep the building standing.

The closure of the department shop in The Horsefair overlooking St James Barton roundabout ended nearly 50 years in the city for the chain.

It was one of 49 Debenhams stores across the UK to shut after the long-running retailer chain went into administration.

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