House of Fraser will stay in Kendals for now as renovation plans won’t start for at least another year.


House of Fraser will stay in the iconic Kendals building as the owner says a major renovation won’t start for at least another year, the Manchester Evening News can reveal.

Investec, an international banking giant, submitted plans to convert the beloved Grade II listed building on Deansgate into offices which were approved last summer.

The ambitious project includes the construction of a central atrium, the creation of new entrances to the rear, the replacement of the distinctive glass blocks to let in more light, and the addition of a roof extension.

The work is expected to take three years and will also see the demolition of the King Street West multi-storey car park and adjoining Fraser Building to be replaced with a 14-storey office block and expanded public space.

In a press release issued last February, Investec said it expected work to begin in early 2022.

But as of this month, all retailers affected by the plan, including House of Fraser, remain open.

The iconic Kendals building is the oldest department store in the country.

Andrew Webster, development manager for Investec, told MEN that renovation plans are still going on, but House of Fraser will remain a tenant for now on a rolling six-month lease.

“It would be useless to have an empty building, that would not be good for Manchester,” he said.

Asked when the renovation is expected to start, Webster said, “We’re hoping it’ll be in the next year or so, but it’s a big plan to put together.”

“There are pressures on construction … we have to solve this and we are doing it.”

“We are talking to a number of top-tier contractors who are interested in the scheme and would like to get involved in doing it.”

Widespread material and labor shortages hit the construction industry hard during 2021, leading to project delays and some companies going bankrupt.

Work was due to start in early 2022

While these problems have since eased, a new one is looming: sky-high energy bills.

Rising gasoline prices could drive up the cost of things like bricks and steel, reports suggest.

Meanwhile, the debate also continues on how the office market will be affected by changes in working practices during the pandemic.

The Prime Minister has been urging people to return to the office following the removal of the work-from-home guideline last week.

But the research suggests that many companies and organizations are not asking people to return full-time, instead continuing with hybrid arrangements.

Most commentators think that while this does not mean the end of the office, it will lead to companies changing their needs.

“What’s coming out of the pandemic is…demand for office space has held up very well,” Webster insisted.

There is uncertainty about how office needs will change after the pandemic

“What the leasing experts will tell you is that there is a flight to quality, pretty worn buildings will be empty.

“People are looking at the new things, the renovations.

“Employers are thinking ‘we need a little more room to spread out’, more facilities, more is required.

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“Investec needs to get comfortable with what is really going on.”

“Things are changing all the time.

“Investec is focused on doing the right thing, this is probably the most iconic and beloved building I have ever dealt with.”

House of Fraser, which is believed to employ around 500 people in Kendals, did not respond to request for comment.

The retail chain is owned by Sports Direct after falling into administration in 2018.

Investec has said it will retain some retail space in the building on the ground floor, ground floor and possible first floors.

Investec says office renovation plans are still continuing in the next ‘year or so’

But in a document submitted as part of the planning application, Sheppard Robson, an architect at Investec, made it clear that there was no future for a department store in Kendals.

“The single retail model like the House of Fraser is no longer a viable business and cannot provide a long-term occupant or viable use for the building,” the architect said.

“The decline of traditional retail has been well documented, and the building’s future use as a retail department store is not considered viable in the context of the demonstrable shift in high street trends in recent years.

“This has been particularly evident with House of Fraser, where several of the floors have been closed even before the current pandemic crisis, and which has now gone into administration.

“Other department store chains are reviewing their assets to recognize the shift to more online retailing for a range of products normally found in department stores.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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