House of Fraser could be turned into apartments
BIRMINGHAM’S famous Rackhams department store could be turned into city living apartments.
The closure of the House of Fraser store in Corporation Street could help ease the housing crisis.
The West Midlands Combined Authority’s new housing chief, Councillor Mike Bird, said that store’s closure could pave the way of city centre accommodation.
Cllr Bird, who is also the council leader for Walsall, said many people were converting redundant commercial or retail space into homes.
During his time on the WMCA board, he will be responsible for working toward a target of building 215,000 new houses across the West Midlands by 2031.
He believes that the authority should be looking at other methods of construction if it is to meet this target.
“Obviously housing is always top of everybody’s agenda at the moment, but what we’ve got to see is 215,000 houses built in the West Midlands conurbation,” he said.
“And we’re trying to achieve that without intruding on the green belt, which of course is important for everybody.
“That in itself is a challenge, but it’s one I’m not afraid of. What we’ve got to do is encourage alternative methods of construction.
“I mean there are various things now, there’s timberframed houses, there’s system-built houses, there’s houses built in factories, and as a result maybe we’ve got to move away from the traditional brick and concrete base property that we’re used to seeing. “You can build them with speed, you can build them with accuracy, you can build them on the back of a lorry, putting them together, and at the end you can have two semi-detached properties after a few days. He added: “I think the other thing we’ve got to look at, you look at the recent very sad announcement that House of Fraser will be closing in Birmingham. And that in itself could present an opportunity, rather than a threat.
“I mean, if you look around the country many people are now using redundant commercial or retail space and converting that into homes. That’s something that I shall be looking at.”
Creditors last week agreed a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) with House of Fraser which will see a total of 31 outlets shut and the loss of 2,000 jobs at its stores and a further 4,000 across brands and concessions.
There will also be rent reductions on a further ten shops that it plans to keep. Among the list of other West Midlands stores set to close is Wolverhampton’s famous Beatties store and House of Fraser in Telford, Shrewsbury and Worcester.
Birmingham’s House of Fraser, in Corporation Street, is due to shut in early 2019 as will the other 30 identified for closure.
This latest development confirms the announcement made earlier this month by House of Fraser that it was seeking a new deal with creditors which would allow the company to refinance and complete a buyout deal with Chinese suitor C.Banner.
House of Fraser secured the required backing of at least 75 per cent of its creditors for the CVA to be approved.
New parent company C.Banner, which also owns toy store chain Hamleys, is buying a 51 per cent stake in House of Fraser and injecting £70 million in new capital into the business.
Landlords have previously hit out at the CVA, complaining they are being forced to stomach a financial hit at the same time as House of Fraser enjoys new investment.
House of Fraser and Beatties stores identified for closure are, in full, Altrincham, Aylesbury, Birkenhead, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Camberley, Cardiff, Carlisle, Chichester, Cirencester, Cwmbran, Darlington, Doncaster, Edinburgh Frasers, Epsom, Grimsby, High Wycombe, Hull, Leamington Spa, Lincoln, London Oxford Street, London King William Street, Middlesbrough, Milton Keynes, Plymouth, Shrewsbury, Skipton, Swindon, Telford, Wolverhampton and Worcester.
The doomed House of Fraser store in Birmingham city centre and, below, Councillor Mike Bird