House of Fraser in Wolverhampton is set to be closed down and redeveloped as student housing or lecture halls, as a £3m sale of the property is expected to be finalised within weeks.
The deal would be a major change for the city centre retail site where the Beatties chain was founded in 1877 before being taken over by House of Fraser in 2005.
Sports Direct, which took House of Fraser out of administration in August last year, had a lease on the building that expired last month.
The deal is one of several under way around the country as the landlords that own the House of Fraser stores line up alternative uses. Sports Direct is expected to close several House of Fraser stores once the peak Christmas trading period is over and many landlords are keen to find an alternative to the low- or no-rent deals the sports retailer has negotiated.
The University of Wolverhampton is understood to be a lead bidder for the site, in a sale process that has reached its final stages. The store dates from the 1920s and the university has said the redevelopment could include lecture halls and accommodation for students as well as shops, a cafe and restaurant.
The city’s nearby Debenhams department store, which only opened in 2017, is also due to close in January as part of a rescue restructuring of the ailing retail group.
House of Fraser is thought to be in talks about moving into the Debenhams site, which is part of the Mander Centre shopping mall.
Pat McFadden, the Labour MP for Wolverhampton South East, said he would welcome “any productive use” for the Beatties site. “Retail is changing and not everything can stay the same. It may change but I don’t want a city centre that has big empty sites. We want spaces that are used and bringing people into the centre.”
Hull’s former House of Fraser, which closed in August, is one of the first to be redeveloped. Its landlord, Redefined Paragon, wants to convert the ground floor into an artisan food hall, similar to the market hall in Altrincham or Time Out Market in Lisbon.
The site is to be renamed Hammonds of Hull, reviving the name of the department store before it was bought by House of Fraser in 1972. The upper floors are expected to be developed into flats, flexible working space or possibly hotel rooms.
Cllr Daren Hale, deputy leader of Hull city council, said: “It is great to see the Hammonds name return to this key city centre site. The proposals are exciting and ambitious and could potentially put Hull on a par with the food hall offerings in Manchester and Birmingham.”
Meanwhile, Surrey Heath borough council is considering redeveloping the lower floors of Camberley’s House of Fraser into a retail space that could house concessions including independent stores.
Under a plan to be considered by the council before Christmas as an alternative to keeping House of Fraser as a tenant, the upper floors could be redeveloped into co-working spaces and offices alongside a restaurant.