Refurbishment work has started on a former bookshop building in White Hart Street, High Wycombe.
The building at 26-28 White Hart Street, which was once a branch of Ottakar’s bookshop, has stood vacant for many years under the ownership of an offshore absentee landlord.
Wycombe District Council has actively sought to acquire the property and was in protracted negotiations with the owner. When the premises finally went up for sale the Council moved quickly to buy it for the benefit of the town.
Strip-out work on the building is nearing completion. This has however revealed that the large plate glass windowed shop fronts were unstable resulting in them being removed from the building.
The aim is to convert the ground floor to two units with A3 café/bar/restaurant use, with a shared covered external seating area. The first floor is to be converted in to a stylish design studio/office with its own entrance in Bull Lane. The conversion works are expected to start in August 2019.
Plans are being drawn up for a striking reclad of the building. A planning application for the works will be submitted shortly.
Cllr Steve Broadbent, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration, explained: ‘This store is central to our vision to regenerate the heart of the town. It’s a key building in a central location, overlooking Queens Square which offers a natural flow between the town centre and Eden.
For too long the building has been an eyesore. Now we are moving ahead to transform it.
Our vision is to make it an exciting, iconic addition to the townscape and to breathe new life into Queens Square which is ideally located for all kinds of pop-up and experience events.
This in turn will help attract new businesses that provide an extra dimension to the visitor experience of the town.‘
This is the latest and arguably the most ambitious in Wycombe District Council’s ongoing initiative to acquire vacant shops, refurbish them and re-let them in a readily occupiable condition, at competitive rents that attract independent businesses, to add vitality to the town centre.
Previous examples include the former Millets store in Church Street (now the Mad Squirrel craft brewery shop and bar) and the former Greggs store in the High Street which is currently The Works ice cream factory and restaurant.