Retailer Primark is preparing to relocate to new premises in Belfast city centre by early next year in a move that will see the current tenant quit its home of more than 10 years.
The News Letter understands that Primark is to move to Fountain House which it owns, requiring New Look to vacate the 46,000sqft store on Donegall Place which is also listed.
The move comes amid growing speculation about the future of the business in Belfast almost a month since fire ripped through the Bank Buildings and reduced the old building to a shell.
However, according to information gathered by the News Letter, it requires Primark, which acquired Fountain House just over a year ago to serve notice on New Look which is understood to be in themiddle of a 20-year lease that began in 2007.
That followed an extensive refit and renovation carried out in 2006.
New Look, which has three other Belfast stores in CastleCourt on Royal Avenue, Cityside on York Street and Connswater off the Newtownards Road, did nor respond to a request for comment.
However,a Primark spokesperson declined to either confirm or deny the plan, repeating the firm’s previous position: “It is our intention to be back up and trading again as soon possible.
“We are at the early stages on this and will confirm details as soon as possible.”
Fountain House is a B1 listed building and feature three floors of retail space and one for storage.
It was offered for sale last March for £14.25 million by then owners M&G Property Portfolio, which bought the building for £13.4m in August 2014.
However, while the move would restore Primark’s position in a prime spot, it still leaves the city centre in a parlous position in the run up to Christmas, with 14 stores remaining closed behind the cordon around Bank Buildings and countless other impacted by the cordon and the resulting fall in visitors to the city centre since the fire on August 28.
In addition to confirming it will pay staff up to the new year, Primark last week announced it is to donate £500,000 to a support fund set up to help fellow traders.
As yet there has been no indication as to whether it will be possible to stablilise and rebuild the shell or whether it will have to be demolished and replaced .
Increasingly concerned traders have been warned by Belfast City Council that the cordon could remain in place until early next year.