Cheshire West and Chester Council, In partnership with the Chester Growth Partnership and Chester BID are continuing their work to secure a future use for the iconic Browns of Chester building.
The current occupier, Debenhams, will close their doors for the final time this week on both the Chester and Ellesmere Port stores as part of their closures across the UK. This follows the company going into administration earlier this year.
The local partners have been working closely with the building’s owner British Land to look at the opportunities for the site. The intention is to use the space for mixed uses which will drive economic growth and footfall in Chester city centre.
Councillor Richard Beacham, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Growth, Economy & Regeneration said: “Browns of Chester is one of the most well-known buildings in our city and one which is a great source of pride to residents. Like me, many people will have fond memories of this store and that’s why our local partnership is being proactive in its approach to finding a new role for this important building to play in bringing people into our city.
“We began with offers of support to all Debenhams staff to use the services of our council Work Zones for help, advice and access to available jobs. Beyond this, we are working with the building’s owners, sourcing professional advice and refreshing the One City Plan with support of residents, so that we can reimagine Chester in the face of the seismic changes to consumer behaviour which are impacting high streets across the UK.
“Recently Chester was identified as one of the top 20 retail locations in the UK, and the best in the North West. The city is also restoring its independent heart, with lots of new businesses opening that are unique to Chester. As we look to the future, we want to find a use for Browns which will complement the investments made in the new market, Storyhouse and the Heritage Action Zone project around the Rows.”
Carl Critchlow, manager of the Chester BID, said: “High streets across the UK are evolving and the way that consumers interact with businesses is changing. While this evolution will inevitably bring challenges, it will also present some new and exciting opportunities that support the renewal of the city centre.
“Mapping the city’s assets such as the iconic Browns store and exploring how they could be developed will allow us to engage potential new occupiers and spread the word that Chester is open for business.
“We are looking at reinventing alternative options for the retail and leisure core of the city centre in the immediate and longer-term. Taking into account current and future development proposals and building on the £70m leisure investment in Northgate, a quality staycation experience, supports local entrepreneurs and independent retail and food and drink start-ups, and includes local and national trends for new uses and experiences.”