Eldon Square unveils plans for new leisure and sport zones creating 400 jobs

29.11.23 Debenhams Eldon Square Credit: PA
Re-purposing empty retail space in Eldon Square will make way for cultural and sport hubs in the former Debenhams store and Eldon Leisure Recreation Centre. Credit: PA

Plans to revitalise parts of Eldon Square shopping centre and create 400 jobs have been unveiled.

Eldon Square announced the proposals which are designed to bring variety to Newcastle city centre, generate employment, and re-purpose unused space.

Under-utilised areas will be refurbished to create a mix of family-oriented leisure offerings covering sports, culture and entertainment.

The former Eldon Leisure Recreation Centre will be redesigned to become a sports hub featuring gaming zones, arcades and virtual reality.

The closure of Debenhams, Top Shop and Dorothy Perkins resulted in vacant retail space in Eldon Square accounting for over 200,000 sq ft. Credit: PA

The vacant top floor of the former Debenhams department store, which closed its doors in 2021, is being lined up to bring a mix of food, socialising, art, culture and music performances.

By removing parts of the building’s roof, there will also be an outside seating area with a retractable roof.

A national family leisure operator is being lined up to use the circa 120,000 sq ft space to provide a range of indoor activities from arcade games and virtual reality, to crazy golf and electric karting. This will combine with food and beverages and live entertainment bringing something new to the city.

There are currently advanced plans for a major national retailer to occupy the other two floors.

Along with the loss of Debenhams, the closure of Topshop and Dorothy Perkins have resulted in vast areas of vacant retail floorspace within Eldon Square, accounting for over 200,000 sq ft.

The 17-acre shopping centre is the biggest single land holding in the city and first opened its doors in 1976.

It has since undergone several developments with the latest being brought by joint owners Intu Debenture plc and Newcastle City Council.

Refurbishing empty units in Eldon Square is expected to create 400 jobs, generating an additional £16m annually to Newcastle's economy. Credit: PA

General manager of Eldon Square, Cormac Hamilton, said: “Since taking responsibility for the management of Eldon Square, we have worked hard to ensure that vacant retail space within the Shopping Centre is reoccupied by new retailers wherever possible.

"However, large units such as the former Debenhams have been purpose-built as department stores, which makes them difficult to re-let unaltered.

"We are confident that we can soon announce the retailer who will be taking two floors within the former Debenhams department store, and we are delighted that the remaining space will also be brought back into productive use.

"The leisure occupier that we are in advanced talks with is a leader in their field and they will bring something truly unique to Newcastle. They will act as incubators for local culinary and musical talent, offering a platform to showcase their skills to both residents and visitors.

"Complementing this will be the national family leisure operator and their phenomenal range of indoor fun and entertainment for all. The former Leisure Centre is an amazing space for the city centre. Combining this with adjacent space creates an extraordinary venue.

"The breadth of the operator’s offer means that they should have something for everyone under one roof."

The plans are expected to create 400 jobs, generating an additional £16m per year to the city's economy.

"These changes will help to generate a large number of new jobs and bring a new vibrancy and extra footfall to the city," added Mr Cormac.

There are also proposed external changes to modernise the Blackett Street frontage side of the building with a separate ground floor entrance and a terrace garden overlooking Old Eldon Square.

Before applications are submitted to Newcastle City Council, the plans will be on display to the public in the former Paperchase unit at St Andrew’s Way, Eldon Square on Saturday 2 December between 10am and 5pm.

Planning applications are expected to be submitted in the coming weeks.

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