Hammerson and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority have lodged plans to redevelop the 130,000 sq ft House of Fraser anchor store at Reading’s Oracle shopping centre as a giant food hall and bowling alley with shops, as the repurposing of UK department stores continues apace.
The plans lodged with Reading council, via Simply Planning, are for a makeover to include a: food hall with bar, a D2 leisure use and a separate retail or café area on the riverside level, D2 leisure (likely to be a bowling alley) and a retail unit on the lower ground level, a new retail unit and a storage area created on the upper ground level.
A design and access statement by Urban Edge states: “The overarching key principle is to activate the Riverside façade of the House of Fraser unit, achieved through considering how the existing unit could be reconfigured to create units that face outwards onto the Riverside rather than inwards into the centre.
“In the changing and challenging economic environment, the need for large volumes of retail floorspace is dwindling, and there are few retail operators that would take this space in its entirety.
“Therefore, there is a need to develop a scheme that repurpose this space, incorporating uses that reflect the evolution of shopping centres to provide a mix of activities and destinations.”
A statement from Hammerson said: “In line with our strategy of reducing department store space across our portfolio, we have submitted a planning application for a change of use to the House of Fraser store.
“If approved, this would give us the flexibility to introduce new leisure and restaurant options and bring new brands to the town, should we wish to do so.
“At this stage we are considering all options for the future of the store. We hope that a decision will be reached on the application in around three months’ time.“
House of Fraser and Debenhams are the long-term tenants at the Oracle, which was built in 1997. The centre is owned jointly by Hammerson and the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.
Sports Direct bought HoF last year for £90 million with boss Mike Ashley announcing plans to turn it into the ‘Harrods of the High Street’. It is planning as many as 30 new ‘Frasers’ shops over the next five years.
Sports Direct has been subsequently negotiating on HoF’s department stores across the UK with CBRE providing advice.