AT RISK: The future of the Debenhams building in Middlesbrough
The Debenhams building is Middlesbrough is vacant and councillors are the mayor is concerned about its future, Image: Google Maps
Mayor Andy Preston has urged councillors to worry about the future of the Debenhams building in the town centre due to the risk of deterioration now it is vacant.
Labour Group leader Cllr Matt Storey asked the mayor for an update on heritage buildings in the town centre including House of Fraser, Debenhams and Burton.
Debenhams and Burton have now closed leaving the stores empty and Mr Preston has not ruled out taking over the buildings, which are privately owned, if they end up in a state of decline.
He added: “There is a real risk that heritage buildings like Debenhams could go the same way. My understanding is, I have had meetings with the people that control the building, there is nothing coming back from them that tells me any plan for it, so I don’t know about Debenhams, but I am worried for it.
“We should all be worried and, if necessary, if the free market, if capitalism won’t solve the problem and we end up with a rotting building then the public sector in some way have got to get involved because we cannot let a landmark site bring the town down.”
In July 2020, Middlesbrough Council bought the House of Fraser building for £1m over concerns the department store would vacate leaving an empty building in the hands of private owners.
Another site Mayor Preston mentioned was the former Crown pub on the corner of Linthorpe Road and Borough Road.
It was also a former cinema and bingo hall before becoming a boozer and the mayor has been working to track down the owners so it does not lie empty.
He said: “I have personally tried to reach the owners via someone I know who might know the owners.”
Between January and July 2021 there were 12 closures of major high street retailers in Middlesbrough.
Currently, the vacancy rate of stores is at 17.8% and the target for 2024 is 13.25% – initiatives including Captain Cook Square regeneration aim to improve this figure and bring empty stores back to life.
Words: Emily Craigie, Local Demcoracy Reporter
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