A deserted shopping centre vital to the future of Wrexham town centre is up for sale.
Former Blue Peter presenter Tim Vincent opened the multi-million pound Henblas Square development in 1999, with major names including BHS and TJ Hughes among those attracted to the site.
But less than 20 years later, only two tenants remain and the development has been put up for sale by commercial agents Allsop.
The listing for the site reads: “The property comprises a modern shopping centre constructed in 1999 arranged over ground, first and second floors to provide two large retail units, six smaller retail units, two kiosks and 17,496sq ft of office accomodation.”
“With regards to the vacant space the council has expressed it would support a widening of the retail user class, permitting the purchaser to explore alternative uses subject to the necessary planning consent.”
Wrexham town centre forum chairman Nigel Lewis said one of his priorities for 2017 would be to work with the council, Welsh Government and private landlords to see some of the empty units on Henblas Square come back into use, starting with the former TJ Hughes store.
According to Mr Lewis, restoring that part of town to its former glory would be key to continue rebuilding Wrexham’s image.
Shoppers in Wrexham town centre yesterday said they hoped the potential sale of the development would help bring some of the units back into use.
Matt Parry, of Rhostyllen, said: “It’s a key part of the town centre and it looks awful with all these empty units. Hopefully if it gets sold, some of them will fill up. It would be nice to see the area busy again.”
Susie Griffiths, of Penycae, added: “It was a big loss when BHS closed down. I remember when it opened and it was brilliant. Most of the chain shops have gone to Eagles Meadow though so I’m not sure it will ever be like it used to.”
Denise Charles said: “They should make it into a designated eating area with bistros and cafe bars, plus family-friendly places to eat. There are very few places that you go out to eat as a family on a Saturday evening in Wrexham.”
Her view was echoed by Beccy Elwell, who said: “It’s perfect for a piazza style freshen up – tables and chairs out over the pedestrian area with planters. I would love to see Giraffe and Wagamamas as they are family friendly.”
But Mal Jones disagreed. He said: “Affordable housing is the only thing that makes sense. We have Eagles Meadow and Island Green for the big stores, entertainment and eating.”
Fiona Bassett said: “What about a concert square with live music venues that are family friendly with tables and chairs in the street?”
Elaine Thomas said: “Wrexham Council should buy it and reinstate the Vegetable Market in a retro style. Glass front and back, shops around the perimeter at affordable rents and rates with accommodation above.”
Andrew Atkinson, chairman of the town centre forum steering group and local campaigner, said: “Filling the units on Henblas Square is critically important to improving the town centre.
”One of the main issues with TJ Hughes being empty is that it cuts off a vital walkway that used to connect Chester Street and Henblas Street. We badly need this open again to help spread the footfall around the town.
”I hope that the new ICE business hub can take on one or more of these units. I’ve also recently met a gentleman looking to take on units there as part of a social enterprise.
”Now that there have been significant rate valuation reductions there this should help attract larger businesses again.”
BHS closed last year after the retail chain collapsed into administration in April and Duff & Phelps were unable to find a buyer.
Following the closure of BHS, the Post Office relocated to the top floor of WH Smith on Hope Street.
Other stores which were at one time based in the development included Evans, The Entertainer, Au Naturale homeware retailer, MVC, Bodycare and Marks & Spencer.
The development stands near the site of the old Vegetable Market, which was demolished in 1992, and across from where the Hippodrome cinema once stood before a major fire in June 2008 caused extensive damage and led to it being demolished.