Property firm's banking on new retailer in Holywood
Plans to convert a former Danske Bank in Holywood into a shop could see a new UK retailer opening its first unit in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
A planning application was lodged by Portstewart firm Eastlower Properties to allow the former bank to be used for retail.
The building, based on the town's High Street, was last used as a bank two years ago.
In 2014, Danske closed the Holywood branch along with its west Belfast outlet as part of a wave of closures.
The building was listed as available for let last month, with rent set at around £39,500 a year.
Would-be tenants will be able to make use of the building's 2,700 sq ft of mostly open plan ground floor space and 'strong room' designed to protect valuables.
It's understood landlords could be close to striking a deal with a UK-based retailer.
Brian Patterson, managing director at Templeton Robinson estate agents, which is handling the process, said: "It will be an exciting development and will increase the flow of footfall further up out of the centre.
"Holywood is a vibrant town and there are very few empty units but there's always demand from restaurateurs, specialist shops, ladies' fashions, cafes and shops to set up there. It's becoming an east Down version of south Belfast's Lisburn Road."
Mr Patterson would not reveal who negotiations were with.
High-end grocer Waitrose - which is part of John Lewis - has said it is not currently considering opening any stores in Northern Ireland.
Meanwhile in neighbouring town Bangor, the bosses behind children's activity centre Funky Monkeys have submitted a planning application for a trampoline centre.
The plans involve inter-connected trampolines and an oversized indoor playground on a property outside the town - part of new venture Air-tastic.
The company has plans for seven centres, including three in Northern Ireland based at Boucher Road in Belfast, Bangor, Newtownabbey and four in the Republic in Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Cork.
Funky Monkeys currently has 14 centres, including sites in Newtownabbey, Dundonald and Lurgan.