Thursday, 8 June 2017

MALLíS NOT LOST thumbnailAn aerial view of the Mall. The planned development would have focussed on the former DARD building.

AMBITIOUS plans to redevelop part of Armagh's historic Mall West into a retail complex will not proceed as planned.

The £3 million project ran into a number of problems, however the failure to attract enough retailers to the venture was a major stumbling block.

A statement from the Department of Communities said: "Notice has been received from the appointed preferred developer that the regeneration of the Mall West site will now not proceed as planned.

"There are a number of reasons cited, but predominantly the inability to secure retailer interest for the new development has impacted on the viability of the project.

"Although this is a disappointing result for all involved in the regeneration of this key strategic site which has been identified in the Armagh Masterplan, the Department for Communities will continue to work closely with Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council with a view to stimulating and rejuvenating this key site in Armagh city centre."

A planning application for the major development was submitted back in June 2013 and it had been hoped that work would have started in early 2014.

Speaking in 2013, the then Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland said the development would facilitate private sector investment in Armagh, create construction jobs in the short term and ensure permanent jobs in the retail sector.

He also said the development would signal a major milestone in the delivery of the Armagh Masterplan.

Meanwhile Armagh councillor, Sam Nicholson believes all is not lost for the iconic site.

"Yes it is very disappointing news that not enough interest could not be generated with retailers," said Mr Nicholson.

"But this is still a wonderful site and still represents an excellent opportunity for new life to be breathed into the heart of the city centre.

"The Mall is one of the most beautiful city-centre locations anywhere in Northern Ireland and it is imperative that the council pulls out all the stops to ensure this area is developed in the best way possible.

"With the former filling station on the Mall also being for sale maybe there is an opportunity for some fresh thinking in relation to developing this area of the Mall.

"I will be raising the matter with the council's Economic Development Committee to ensure that these plans are not allowed to be mothballed but instead every stone is turned in an effort to progress this development with a new developer.

"I think we need to work with the retail to sector to find out just why this development didn't tick all the boxes for them. It has car-parking, is centrally located and is on the Mall, many would think it has it all.

"But there must be something missing and it is important we learn just what that is."

Alderman Jim Speers also expressed his disappointment at the news that the development has stalled.

"This was an exciting development for Armagh and I believed it would have worked well not only in regenerating this area of the Mall but also complimenting the shops in the city centre," said Mr Speers.

"But I don't believe this is the end of the line, every challenge provides an opportunity. It is important we now find the best way to move forward."


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