Despite repeated challenges and delays, Deputy Leader of Hull City Council Daren Hale has confirmed the local authority remains committed to delivering on a £130m development to repurpose an old site in the city.
The Albion Square development has been in the works since the city council purchased the site in 2016, shortly after the Bhs department store closed. Since then, work has been carried out to strip out the asbestos from inside the building, as well as demolishing another nearby derelict store.
Once complete, the council intends to redevelop the site with a mix of new retail, housing, offices and leisure facilities, including a new ice rink to replace the current facility at Hull Arena.
However, up to now, the project has faced a myriad of issues from delays trying to secure a commercial partner to jointly deliver on the project to uncertainty over the date of a Grade II-listed mural on the front of the building.
Covid-19 has similarly caused a shift in the proposed development timetable, limiting the work which could be carried out and pushing back the project.
Recently, councillors were reportedly told it could take another five years to complete after £1.1m of funding was agreed to extend the operational life of the current council-owned ice rink.
Quoted by local press, Cllr Hale told a scrutiny meeting: “We remain committed to Albion Square.
"The reason we put the funding into the Arena was to ensure there is not a gap between the closure of the current one and the opening of the new one.
"We know that having a new ice rink in Albion Square will be a key factor in driving footfall."
Despite the challenges that Covid-19 had already presented to the project, Cllr Hale explained that he didn’t anticipate it causing problems in utilising the redeveloped space.
He described that while changing shopping trends might lead to a future rethink on the retail space within the scheme, demand for office space in the city centre remained high despite the impact of the pandemic.
"It might be different kind of offices to the traditional type we all know, ones that are more flexible with hot-desking like you see [elsewhere in the city], but the demand is there.
"Similarly, with the housing element we have developers chomping at the bit to develop housing on a site which has been an eyesore for years.
"We owe it to the city to bring it back into use and we remain completely wedded to the idea of bringing this scheme forward."
Subject to a final decision on the Grade II-listed mural, both the empty Bhs store and the derelict former Co-op store next door will be demolished as part of the scheme.
As well as the new-build housing, leisure and retail, the plans also include the construction of a multi-storey car park.