Former Debenhams Store In Leeds To Be Turned Into Student Accommodation

Burflex House, Clay Street, Hull, East Yorkshire, HU8 8HA E.

Burflex House, Clay Street, Hull, East Yorkshire, HU8 8HA E.

Former Debenhams Store In Leeds To Be Turned Into Student Accommodation

Former Debenhams Store In Leeds To Be Turned Into Student Accommodation

A planning application has been submitted to turn the Leeds City Centre Debenhams into a mix of commercial space and student accommodation.

The Grade II listed building, formerly the flagship Debenhams for the northeast of England until the department store’s sudden and shocking collapse last year, has laid dormant for the past few months whilst plans were made for its future.

Developer Orchard Street Investment Management initially submitted a pre-application to the City Plans Panel in March, due to the listed status of the building and its importance to the heritage of the city centre.

The plans are to keep the basement, ground and first floors as a commercial building, offering 40,000 square feet of flexible commercial space.

As well as this, the roof, which was extended in the 1990s, would be removed and replaced with two extra floors, allowing for a total of 124 beds for student accommodation, which would consist of 90 studio flats and 17 “twodios”, or duel occupancy studios.

As well as this, there are also plans for a wellness courtyard garden, sky lounge and atrium.

The plans were largely welcomed at this early stage, enabling Orchard Street to create a full planning document that has been submitted.

Once approved, work can start with scaffolders in Leeds to remove the more recent roof and create extra floors that match the previous 1930s art deco style of the building.


The Collapse Of Debenhams

How a flagship building became available to be developed is the result of a precipitous collapse of what was once a high street institution.

The first, early signs of Debenhams’ ultimately insurmountable financial woes came in 2018 when the company announced losses of nearly half a billion pounds.

This led to speculation about how the company could possibly survive, and to the surprise of very few, the company went into pre-pack administration, which is where a company has a restructuring plan already set up and in place before it announces it is insolvent.

After agreeing to rent reduction plans on all but 39 of its department stores and closing 22 others, it appeared that the restructuring may be just enough to keep the creditors from knocking until April 2020.

With high streets being forced to close, Debenhams appointed administrators on 6th April and within three days had closed 11 stores in Ireland, as well as 13 in the UK.

By July, this was not enough and Debenhams themselves were up for sale in an attempt to avoid liquidation, and let 2,500 members of staff go.

By December, it appeared that there may be hope, with talks with the Arcadia group (owners of Miss Selfridge, Dorothy Perkins and Topshop) to potentially save the company from liquidation reached an advanced level.

However, Arcadia themselves collapsed, a victim of its own underinvestment and unable to itself get rescued by other major high street investment groups, leaving Debenhams no choice but to go into liquidation.

Whilst the Frasers Group, owned by Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley were in talks to buy Debenhams to expand House of Fraser but backed out in the end.

When online fashion retailer Boohoo bought what was left of Debenhams, all of the remaining 118 stores were closed, leading to the loss of 12,000 jobs, and many major high street buildings suddenly left unoccupied.