The revival of 44-50 Eastgate Street in Gloucester city centre from a disused retail unit into a vibrant mixed-use development by locally-based developer Michael Chittenden has been boosted by his acquisition of the adjacent 19,342 sq ft “New Look” building.
Bringing the two buildings together will create a 77,500 sq ft template which Mr Chittenden is looking to redevelop into a blend of uses. Being considered are residential, co-working offices for smaller enterprises, larger office spaces for established businesses, retail and leisure.
The first stage of the revival of the iconic Art Deco building has already been completed with the 16,400 sq ft ground floor letting to Jobcentre Plus – one of the largest lettings within Gloucester City over the last 12 months.
The development will also add impetus to the other major regeneration projects in Gloucester City Centre, including the £5 million upgrading of Kings Square and surrounds, the new Transport Hub, the proposed refurbishment of the Fleece Hotel on Westgate Street and the relocation of Primark to new premises on Eastgate Street, along with numerous City Centre housing schemes for both private and student sectors.
“Despite a difficult period for retail and the city centre, there are currently some really exciting projects and positive things happening in Gloucester,” says the agent for the scheme, Kurt Wyman.
“In common with urban centres up and down the UK, Gloucester has suffered from a change in retail habits which has accelerated during the Covid Pandemic. However, there are some very exciting projects going on in the city which are already creating a buzz.”
The development occupies a prominent position on the corner of Eastgate Street and Brunswick Road in the heart of the city’s main retail area, while the city’s new bus station and mainline railway station are a short walk away.
Michael Chittenden, whose extensive property portfolio includes hotels, business centres and residential developments, acquired the empty former retail store in 2019. The distinctive art deco façade is being cleaned and the familiar clock – which has not worked for many years – restored to working order.
The five-storey building on the corner of Eastgate Street and Brunswick Road started life as the Gloucester Co-operative Society, and the face of Joseph Clay, the founder of the Gloucester Cooperative Society, can still be seen on the side of the building. It has had a number of occupiers in recent times, including Argos, and was last used as the Furniture Recycling Project’s showroom.
Paul James, former Leader of the City Council and Cabinet Member for Regeneration (and now Economic Development Lead at Cotswold District Council), was instrumental in encouraging the acquisition of the building. He said, “This is a very prominent building and could once again make a big contribution to the life and vitality of the city centre. I look forward to seeing the plans progress and the building being restored to its former glory.”
Michael Chittenden says: “We see this as an opportunity to do what other cities are doing to bring jobs – and vibrancy – back to the city centres by converting unwanted department stores and large retail units into mixed use developments where people can live, work, shop and enjoy their leisure time.
“One option on the table is to create co-working space, with support services and facilities on hand – such as admin, IT, and call handling – and where tenants will be able to book meeting rooms, videoconferencing suites and ‘huddle spaces’ by the hour. We are also looking for local enterprises in the leisure and retail sector to be part of the ‘offer’, reflecting the sort of business centres now popular in places like the US and London.
“In addition, we are exploring the potential of working with a residential developer for at least one of the upper floors. Bringing more people into the city centre to live is a key part of Gloucester’s future regeneration.”