BARNSLEY Council will complete its takeover of the Alhambra Shopping Centre today - after a multi-million pound deal was struck in order to secure its long-term future.
Receivers Avison Young were appointed at the venue - on Cheapside in the heart of Barnsley town centre - in order to find a new buyer in 2021.
Having opened in August 1991 when it was known as The Mall, a £10.5m price tag was slapped on it when news broke of its sale but the Chronicle can reveal a £4.5m sum was agreed upon.
The cash - which will solely come from the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA) - will also be supported with future funding from the same body should any interior remodelling be needed.
Contracts were exchanged last week and finalisation is due to occur today, the Chronicle understands - but council leader Sir Steve Houghton revealed that although its current retail offering will remain intact, its future could hold a mixed-use approach with a focus on health and wellbeing.
“We’re already in discussions about future ways of using the Alhambra - a potential option is using some of the building for health and wellbeing purposes whilst retaining its retail offering as footfall remains high,” he said.
“Making healthcare more accessible on the high street has worked well in the NHS Community Diagnostic Centre in the Glass Works, and we are keen to explore similar projects.
“There’s been a misconception that the Glass Works’ success has hindered trade at the Alhambra, but that just isn’t the case - it’s done the opposite and big-name retailers remain there as a result.
“We are bucking national trends with a 30.3 per cent increase in town centre footfall compared to 2019 before the pandemic.
“Footfall on Cheapside in quarter one of this year was up 47 per cent compared to 2021.
“Purchasing the leasehold means that the future of a key town centre building is secured for future generations.
“We’re proud of where we’ve got to, but we don’t want to stand still - this next step secures the future of the Alhambra as a key building on our high street.
“We’ve got ambitious plans to create a vibrant, high-quality and consistent experience across the Glass Works, Alhambra and wider town centre, and make healthcare more accessible for all.
“This will help Barnsley town centre meet the current and future needs of our residents, visitors and businesses.”
The 182,000sq ft complex has 43 retail units arranged around a central atrium, with anchor stores including Primark and Iceland, as well as a 496-space car park.
It was owned and operated by The Mall Company from its opening up to its sale to F and C Reit in September 2011, which completed the Alhambra’s purchase alongside another retail complex in Middlesbrough in a £108m deal.
Although it’s lost its Wilko branch as a result of the firm’s collapse, Sir Steve revealed talks had been held with M and S - which will end its 90-year presence on neighbouring Queen Street before the end of 2023 in favour of its food hall’s opening on Peel Retail Park - to see if it could move into the Alhambra.
“Nobody wants to lose M and S from the town centre so discussions were held, but they have a national policy in place and they’re moving towards occupying more retail parks,” he added.
“However, we’re committed to the Alhambra’s future - it won’t be an overnight project but in the coming years people will see something that compliments the Glass Works.
“It’s not a ‘Glass Works’ or ‘Alhambra’ choice - they’re both hugely important to Barnsley town centre and in time we will be holding public consultations about our plans.
“It’s early days, but this is a positive step forward.”