THE historic former Co-op department store building in Coventry city centre is set to be sold by the council to developers for £1 in an unprecedented move – to enable high quality apartments, shops and restaurants rather than more student accommodation.
As we reported, the council earlier this year moved to list the building – with its stone columns and carvings and other features of archaeological merit – to protect it from bulldozers following one proposal by another developer to replace it with student flats.
Now Jim O’Boyle, the council’s cabinet member for jobs and regeneration, is set to approve the unique deal to developers – which would also waive any rental payments to the council and create a new 250-year long-lease purchased for £1.
A council officer’s report outlining the proposal by EDG Property – for 67 residential apartments and more for the Hawkins building next door – with shops and restaurants on the ground floor – will go to Coun O’Boyle’s cabinet member meeting next Wednesday (November 23).
The report states: “The council is keen to encourage the growth of a desired, private housing market within the city centre.
“EDG’s proposal is to provide high quality, private residential accommodation within a landmark building in the city centre, of a form which hasn’t been available for many years.
“There is currently no proven market for this type of development in the city centre, so there is considerable uncertainty around the strength of demand for private, high quality residential accommodation in the city centre.
“This coupled with the costs/risk of redeveloping existing buildings means that the development is not considered to producing a return commensurate with the commercial risk being taken.
“As such the council is being asked to forgo its existing rental income for the next 41 years and any income for the next 250 years. In return it secures the development outlined.”
Coun O’Boyle told the Observer the council would still gain from council tax and business rates if the scheme is successful, and pending planning permission.
He said of the widespread use of the city centre for student accommodation: “This is something of a policy shift. The last thing Corporation Street needs is more of the same.
“To make Corporation Street a viable road again and the way it was when I was young, we need something different to what we’ve had in the last few years.”
He added: “Successful cities are thriving both day and night so the apartments, which will be for sale, will add a new dimension to city living here in Coventry.
“The area that fronts on to Lower Precinct is not part of this proposal – but I expect there to be plans for this in due course.”
Office space is also planned for the Hawkins building.
It is estimated the refurbishment would take 12 to 16 months to complete once work begins.
EDG is a private development company based in Birmingham who have delivered award-winning regeneration schemes in the Midlands The School Yard, Harbourne and The Mailbox and Cube in Birmingham city centre.
Both buildings are currently held on restrictive leases with 41 years to expire. Both would be surrendered.
The proposal even includes a possibility of in future the council giving up freehold ownership – which would be extremely rare in Coventry.
The report states: “To widen the user clause to include residential use will create a small risk in the future where the council may be required to sell its freehold interest to the residential tenants under what is known as leasehold enfranchisement using the Leasehold Reform Act 1967. This would however rely on the individual tenants forming a collective and would be subject to them also acquiring the commercial interests which would be created on the ground floor.”