Developer set to deliver post office transformation

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To reach the roof of the old Post Office requires a climb up a metal stairway and stepping over a dead seagull at the top.

But the view towards the Irish Sea is worth the effort.

View from the roof of  the old Post Office on Abingdon Street which is going to be redveloped

View from the roof of the old Post Office on Abingdon Street which is going to be redveloped

Fast forward two years and if all goes to plan, it is a vista that folk will be able to enjoy with a glass of chilled wine in their hand.

For an enclosed glazed rooftop bar is part of the vision for the Grade II listed building.

As revealed in The Gazette on Monday, Blackpool-based developers Joe and Kelly Thompson, of Thompson Contracts, have bought the landmark and lodged plans with the council for an ambitious hotel and leisure quarter.

To fully appreciate the scale of what is proposed, Joe showed us round the property to set out further his dream for the site.

Inside the old Post Office on Abingdon Street which is going to be redveloped

Inside the old Post Office on Abingdon Street which is going to be redveloped

As these photographs show, a huge amount of work needs to be done but Joe is well aware of the challenge ahead having worked on similar schemes before.

He acknowledges there is much more at stake this time round - a few million pounds of his own cash (although he will not reveal exactly how much) - plus a lot of pride in his home town.

Joe said: “I am a developer and an entrepreneur and I just saw an opportunity.

“In order to maximize the use of the building we have come up with the mezzanine floor and courtyard and making the most use of them.

Inside the old Post Office on Abingdon Street which is going to be redveloped

Inside the old Post Office on Abingdon Street which is going to be redveloped

“We have had discussions with some of the top people in the council to express what we would like to do as part of the planning pre-application, and how it fits in with the direction Blackpool is heading in.

“If you look at Manchester and Liverpool 30 or 40 years ago, I don’t think a town is beyond economic regeneration.”

Thompson Contracts has worked on big projects around the UK, fitting out units for leading brands in the restaurant business.

Projects have included working on the Corn Exchange in Manchester which is also Grade II listed and was recently given a new lease of life as a dining venue, with plans also for a hotel.

Inside the old Post Office on Abingdon Street which is going to be redveloped

Inside the old Post Office on Abingdon Street which is going to be redveloped

Although the Blackpool scheme is only at the planning stage, initial work has been carried out to investigate the strength of the structure to ensure the mezzanine floor is possible.

On the old ground floor sorting office, a suspended ceiling has been removed to reveal a roof lantern behind Abingdon Street which lets light in and is already showing potential as a restaurant space.

Joe added: “Our idea is to go down the route of the leisure and restaurant market.

“Casual dining has really taken off. We already have some brands in Blackpool but hopefully we would attract some more.

“We fitted out two units at the Corn Exchange in Manchester and that is the concept we are looking at.

“Anything of architectural interest in the building will be maintained, for example we will remove the old counters but retain the wooden panelling for use elsewhere in the building.

“There are also three archways behind the counter which will be retained and will lead to a big fitted staircase up to the mezzanine level.

“We want to create a grand foyer and will retain the stained glass. We are also manufacturing a wooden door in our workshop to match the existing one.”

Upper floors of the Edward Street frontage which once housed BT workers would be converted to hotel bedrooms with 25 rooms on each of two storeys.

And while the emphasis of the venue as a whole will be on eating rather than drinking, there are also hopes of creating a rooftop bar above Edward Street.

It would have glass frontage offering views across the town centre and over the Irish Sea.

“When the Lights are on, it will be a fantastic view,” says Joe.

The planning application is expected to go before the council this autumn, and if approved, there would then be a three to six month procurement period, followed by a 46-week construction programme.

It means opening time could be around spring 2018.

The Post Office, built in 1910, is considered by many to be one of Blackpool’s finest buildings.

Its counter service was relocated to WH Smith’s in 2007, with the sorting office moving to a state-of-the-art new centre in Bispham last October.

It is sad to see it empty and neglected, but if these plans come to fruition it could soon be back at the heart of Blackpool.

Joe says: “We want it to be somewhere you would be happy to bring your family and enjoy a day out.”