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Nottingham Post
Nottingham Post
Karen Antcliff

Nottingham architect creates designs showing how Debenhams store could be changed

The former Debenhams building in Nottingham is a landmark structure in the heart of the city centre. When the retailer finally closed its doors in May 2021 following the firm's administration, the huge Grade II listed building was left empty and with an uncertain future.

Up and down the country, the retailer abandoned their sometimes historic premises and closed stores for good. While some locations have since welcomed new tenants, Nottingham's high-profile site remains empty and subject to much speculation about what it would or come become.

It was recently reported that Longmead Capital, a London-based investment management firm, had approached the city council to discuss future plans. However, in an article previously published by Nottinghamshire Live, Longmead Capital has warned that drawing up plans for the future will be a "lengthy process".

In the meantime, local architects GT3 has been considering what it thinks the building could be redesigned to provide for the local community. Its re-imagining is not part of the Longmead discussions and is purely speculative, intended, according to the firm, to "provoke real discussion" around the building's future.

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The building has a long history, which began when the Dickinson brothers opened a drapery store on the corner of Long Row and Market Street. The business was eventually sold to Mr W Griffin and J.T. Spalding, who purchased several neighbouring buildings due to the success of their department store. The façade of the store was then rebuilt in the 1920s and the family first accepted an offer from Debenhams in 1944. It did not trade as Debenhams until 1973, when the department store chain rolled out a nationwide re-brand.

However, the 240-year-old retailer went into liquidation and the Boohoo Group saved the assets and brand, but the move to online-only meant Nottingham's store closed in 2021.

The speculative plan created by GT3 Architects (GT3 Architects)

The team at GT3 Architects say their vision of what the landmark could be transformed into would give the building a new lease of life.

Created with the local community in mind, the Hockley-based firm has reimagined the aged department store into a mixed-use space that not only serves the city’s needs but creates a moment of architectural significance by returning the building to its former glory.

Designed by Liam Gallagher, Matt Drewitt, Jake Duthie and Marta Subh Lopez, the GT3 team strongly believes that encouraging people to live, work and play in the city centre will greatly improve regeneration efforts, fire up the local economy and aid Nottingham in its efforts to become carbon neutral by 2028.

The vision of one local architect - how they'd like to see the building brought to life (GT3 Architects)

The concept divides the spaces to offer something different across the various levels, including a food hall, boutique shops, a high-end hotel, office space, a media centre, residential housing, a hospitality pavilion and a public roof terrace. The smaller building next door on Long Row would then become a pub and cultural centre, The Mikado, in reference to a café building which stood adjacent some 70 years before.

A statement from the design team said: “Increasing the number of people and businesses based in the city centre is vital to regenerating areas, creating jobs and, crucially, restoring historic landmarks for operational use. Debenhams is no exception, and we firmly believe high quality architectural intervention can be achieved, through gentle density that softens imposing buildings and by involving local commerce.

“Nottingham has recently been named England’s most ‘underrated city’, ripe for regeneration and development. The city centre therefore needs to be the beating heart, attracting the best businesses and retaining talent from its two world-renowned universities.

The view from Market Street - local architect's speculative vision of the building (GT3 Architects)

“There is huge speculation as to what the premises should become, so our design provides a ‘shopping list’ of options to provoke real discussion around how we reimagine this much-admired landmark. Nottingham needs more emphatic pieces of civic architecture, and we believe the interventions proposed will have a very positive impact on the townscape.

The team added: “We are a Nottingham-based firm, and this is an idea that really considers the people who live here, like ourselves. We have some incredible historic architecture in and around the city currently underutilised or empty. It is therefore our hope that sympathetic interventions, such as this proposal, will encourage a more varied intergenerational community to work, live and play in the city centre, helping its recovery post-recession and reshaping it for decades to come.”

What do you think of GT3's ideas? What would you like to see become of the building? Let us know in the comments below.


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