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LLEP investment helps bring The Gresham back to life

11 May 2020

The loan will be used to convert the former department store into serviced apartments and co-working business space with associated facilities and four new dynamic commercial units. The building will be renamed ‘The Gresham,’ in a nod to its original name when it was first opened in the 1880s

The Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) has provided a Growing Places Fund (GPF) loan of £4 million to support the redevelopment of the former Fenwick’s department store on Market Street, Leicester.

The LLEP’s decision to award a £4 million GPF loan is in line with its commitment to kick-starting projects that will have a significant impact on employment and investment in Leicester and Leicestershire.

The LLEP offers these loans on a revolving basis, subject to the value of previous loan repayments being available. Applications are invited from developers, local authorities and other applicants in Leicester and Leicestershire.

Fenwick’s store was an iconic retail location in Leicester and the LLEP is keen to ensure that the site can be brought back into public use after the company moved out. The building itself is a prime example of Leicester’s Victorian architectural heritage and is grade-II listed.

Aimrok Holdings Ltd has been chosen as the development partner to convert much of the four-storey building into serviced apartments (or an ‘aparthotel’). The plans consist of 121 bedrooms with a hotel lobby bar, onsite restaurant and gym together with 4 ground floor and basement commercial units totalling nearly 11,000 sq ft. In addition, the site will host a 12,000 sq ft state-of-the-art co-working space which has been pre let to the Leicester Council for 25 years.

Co-working spaces are shared workplaces that allow small businesses, start-ups or freelancers to take advantage of top-class facilities without renting an entire office. This new development would be the first dedicated co-working space in Leicester, though similar facilities have proven extremely successful in Birmingham, Nottingham and Derby.

The expected total capital cost of The Gresham scheme is around £17million, which includes the building purchase, the preparatory works to date and the redevelopment costs of the proposed scheme.

The proposed funding comprises £4 million in developer equity, a £9 million development finance loan and the £4 million GPF loan by the LLEP.

The City Council will also invest £450,000 to fund the fit-out and set-up costs of the proposed workspace and then take a 25-year lease on the new space. Council funding for the proposed co-working scheme will come from capital set aside for the Leicester Economic Action Plan.

Kevin Harris, Chair of the LLEP Board of Directors, said “With the make-up of our high streets evolving, it is important that we plan new uses for some of our most cherished buildings. This development at the old Fenwick’s store will see one of Leicester’s architectural gems preserved and restored to public use, with high-quality apartments in a prime city centre location.

“The site will also provide more much-needed office space in the city, with businesses, start-ups and freelancers able to make use of flexible co-working facilities. This modern approach to working life is sure to be popular with the dynamic businesses that increasingly see Leicester and Leicestershire as a highly attractive place to work.”

Leicester City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said “The substantial investment in this important scheme is a huge vote of confidence in Leicester. Our plans to create new flexible business workspace as part of this redevelopment will build on the success of our workspaces at LCB Depot and Dock and provide an alternative and attractive option for new or small businesses and freelancers looking for a city centre base.

“The Gresham will be just the latest chapter in the ongoing revitalisation of this part of the city centre.”

Andrew Crainey, Managing Director of Aimrok Holdings, said “We are delighted to have finalised the funding for this scheme especially given the challenging times we currently live in. The belief in Leicester to recover strongly has been echoed by the recent approvals of Pilot House, Waterside and Pioneer Park Schemes and we are very pleased to be able to add this development to the list of projects currently being undertaken.

“The focus over the next 18 months is to ensure we proceed with the redevelopment of the building under the appropriate health and safety guidelines to develop a fantastic product for the Leicester council and their co-work space, and to obtain and incentivise occupants for the 4 commercial units to the ground floor and basement which will assist in bringing new life to this area of the city.”

Originally opened in the 1880s, the building was home to Joseph Johnson’s, a family-run store, until its acquisition by Fenwick’s of Newcastle in 1962.

Fenwick’s expanded the interior of the building by incorporating adjacent shops on Market Street and Bowling Green Street. The new LLEP-supported development will include the whole of the property as it was used until its closure in June 2017.

To find out more, visit the LLEP’s website.

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