Former Debenhams store in Bristol set to be demolished as major homes plan unveiled

The redevelopment of the Debenhams site includes reinstating medieval Barr’s StreetThe redevelopment of the Debenhams site includes reinstating medieval Barr’s Street
The redevelopment of the Debenhams site includes reinstating medieval Barr’s Street | AWW Architects

The former Debenhams in Bristol is set to be demolished under proposals to redevelop the Broadmead store, which closed two years ago.

More than 500 new homes are planned for the Broadmead site, located above a new, tree-lined pedestrian retail street.

The redevelopment would transform the area with 1,420m² of the site opened up as public open space. It will also reinstate the historic Barr’s Street - connecting Broadmead to the Bear Pit.

The scheme comprises buildings set either side of the 18 metre wide Barr’s Street. These buildings are between 9 and 12 storeys, with the upper storeys set back, mimicking the Primark building.

One taller 28 storey building is proposed as a new northern gateway into Broadmead. This building faces towards St James Barton roundabout where the buildings are much taller, not least the existing 20-storey Premier Inn building, where there is a proposal to redevelop to 28 storeys.

The proposed redevelopment – which would see the existing and two smaller adjacent buildings removed - would transform the site, creating a vibrant place that developers say will be ‘accessible, permeable, safe and attractive’.

The scheme would see an increase of 50 per cent in so-called ‘active frontages’, with ground floor commercial spaces proposed on the corners of The Horsefair, St James Barton roundabout frontage and along the new Barr’s Street.

One of the ground floor spaces would be made available to a new, local independent business at a discounted rent.

The proposed redevelopment of Debenhams site with tree-lined, green route to Castle ParkThe proposed redevelopment of Debenhams site with tree-lined, green route to Castle Park
The proposed redevelopment of Debenhams site with tree-lined, green route to Castle Park | AWW Architects

The scheme comprises buildings set either side of the 18 metre wide Barr’s Street. These buildings are between 9 and 12 storeys, with the upper storeys set back, mimicking the Primark building.

The decline in retail since the pandemic saw the closure of Debenhams in May 2021. This high street retail decline is a significant challenge facing all areas of the UK including Bristol city centre. At the same time Bristol faces a continuing housing crisis.

The award-winning Bristol team at AWW Architects has been commissioned to design a highly sustainable development that would see the site transformed with 520 new homes set above retail and community spaces.

At 18 metres wide the new Barr’s Street matches the width of Merchant Street, the pedestrianised street that runs through Broadmead, and 1,420m² of the site would become public open space, with the historic Barr’s Street reinstated as a new 18-metre-wide pedestrian route connecting Bond Street and The Horsefair.

A spokesperson said: “Currently the existing building prevents any movement through the site. The proposed redevelopment – which would see the existing and two smaller adjacent buildings removed - would transform the site, creating a vibrant place that is accessible, permeable, safe and attractive.”

Because of the significant 4.5 metre level change - dropping down towards The Horsefair - there will be a wheelchair and pushchair-friendly path, winding through green landscaping. This will sit alongside a more direct route with sets of stairs.

The spokesperson added: “With extensive landscaping and tree planting this new route would become a destination in its own right with cafes and restaurants spilling onto the pedestrianised street.”

A two storey community space - fronting onto St James Barton roundabout – is also proposed. This could include a new library and or health centre. The target is for more than 100 of the homes to be affordable apartments to rent.

Vivienne Kennedy, head of Broadmead BID, said: “We will be sharing the information with our businesses and encouraging them to engage with, and give their feedback to, the developers. We will also pass on any feedback we receive.”

The plans can be seen at www.barrsstreetbristol.co.uk where everyone is welcome to provide feedback.

The team behind the proposals is also holding two consultation events on Monday 19th June: one at 12pm-4pm, outside the Debenhams store, and the other online at 6pm-7.30pm. Details can be found on the website.