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Investors eye up old Belfast BHS store

Big interest in prime site as neighbouring building sold

By John Mulgrew

A building attached to Belfast's former British Home Stores outlet has been sold to a property investor as interest in the empty retail space itself grows, it can be revealed.

It's understood Bywater Properties is the buyer of the Castle Lane site after negotiations which lasted some time.

The firm is already part of a consortium planning to spend £15m on a major office and retail development elsewhere in Belfast city centre.

The building at Donegall Place, currently home to Boots, as well as office space, was sold last summer for an undisclosed amount.

No one from Bywater was available for comment.

It's also understood that a number of investors are eyeing up the former BHS building itself.

The shutters were pulled down on the Castle Place store in August with the loss of 57 jobs.

Retail analyst Donald McFetridge said: "According to industry sources, there is considerable and growing interest in the site of the former BHS store in Belfast city centre.

"This is due, no doubt, to the fact that the store unit is based in one of the best locations in the city centre, with premium neighbours like Marks & Spencer.

"The former BHS store unit could easily accommodate a premium fashion or footwear retailer, or even a luxury goods retailer, due to the size and scale of the premises.

"Other options are that it could be used for a department store with concessions let to some of the leading luxury brands of designer goods or cosmetics.

"The options and possibilities are endless due to the size and location.

"No doubt there will be fierce competition to secure such a premium unit."

It's believed the BHS site could take on one single retailer, instead of the building being hived off into separate units. The collapse of BHS in April affected 11,000 jobs, 22,000 pensions, sparked a lengthy parliamentary inquiry and left its high-profile former owners Dominic Chappell and Sir Philip Green potentially facing an investigation.

BHS operated four stores in Northern Ireland.

The others were in Newtownabbey, Holywood and Lisburn.

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