PLANS have been submitted for a transformational £130m development, including a new ice arena in Hull city centre, which could boost the local economy by more than £40m a year.
Hull Council is behind the proposals to develop one of the largest sites since post-war reconstruction for “a high quality, innovative and sustainable development which enhances the historic environment and delivers new jobs, retail and leisure facilities and homes to meet the needs of a growing city centre”.
Albion Square will see the empty BHS/Co-op and Edwin Davis buildings knocked down, and nearly 182,000 square feet (17,000 square metres) of retail space created, along with 278 homes and more than 600 car parking places.
The plans reveal that it is expected to create 539 full-time jobs, as well as bringing more than 600 people to live in the city centre. The new Ice Arena, which gets 145,000 visitors a year, will also bring in valuable new footfall.
One element that has caused controversy has been the future of the landmark 1963 Three Ships mosaic panel, which overlooks the King Edward Street and Jameson Street junction. Thousands signed a petition to save the mural, thought to be the largest of its kind in the country.
The application states that while the preferred option is to keep the mosaic, as more investigations - including it is understood for asbestos - are carried out, other options may be investigated, including replicating it in modern materials or replacing with a new work.
An internal fish panel, by the same designer, would be moved off the site, but eventually returned and put on display.
The council has already bought the freehold of the two redundant stores and intends to procure a lead developer.
Council leader Steve Brady said it “had no option” but to buy the full site when the opportunity presented itself. He said: “This is a long-awaited chance to transform an area which has been a particular concern to residents for a number of years. The amount of money it will bring in will make it affordable.
“We expect the private sector to be putting substantially more in than the local council - all we are doing is being an enabler for the site. The Ice Arena has a short lifespan left. Otherwise you would have to put vast amounts of money into keeping the present one going.”
Demolition is likely to begin in January, with the first phase expected to be retail and leisure development along King Edward Street, Bond Street and Jameson Street.
Adam Fowler, from the charity City of Hull Environment Forum, said specialist teams were seeing if they could separate asbestos from the backing of the mosaic in the Co-op building.
He said the council was doing all it could to retain the panels ”but clearly if there is an issue of health and safety, that has to be taken into account”.
Concerns about the state of the High Street have intensified after a string of retailers and restaurants fell into administration.
The city’s House of Fraser store will close in early 2019.
Mr Fowler said the new retail units could end up housing stores currently elsewhere in the city centre, but added: “If it sustains the city centre as a core retail destination that is what we have to do.”