Houndshill Centre bought by Blackpool council for £48m - half as much as it went for in 2015
The Houndshill shopping centre has been bought by Blackpool Council for a knock-down price of less than £50m.
It comes days after receivers were appointed to take over the centre and looks set to kick-start the next phase of a £100m masterplan to transform the resort.
It was previously reported that uncertainty of the future of the Houndshill, which had its value slashed to £70m earlier this year by the previous owners, had been holding up a key part of the ambitious project.
Blackpool Council has today revealed it paid £47.6m for the Houndshill – less than half of the £105m BCC Eiffel spent on the complex in 2015.
Bosses said they had been in discussion with the former owners and its funders for “some time” about the future of the landmark.
Today’s purchase marks the end of months of negotiation and will also see the council take ownership of the 770-space multi-storey car park.
In a statement, Blackpool council said it hoped the move would unlock the second phase of the Houndshill’s development, which will include restaurants and a cinema.
A spokeswoman, said: “This is a hugely positive move for the town that will give us direct control over the Fylde coast’s major retail centre.
“This acquisition will deliver a significant financial return to the council but, more importantly, it will allow us to invest in a shopping centre that is fundamentally important to Blackpool’s future.
“Moving the centre into council ownership will provide significant benefits to our town and our residents.
“At the same time, we have the potential to unlock up to £50m of investment in the town through the Future High Streets and Towns Funds, which will undoubtedly give further momentum to the regeneration of the town centre.”
The purchase of the centre was approved in principle by the council’s executive during the summer, together with two adjacent shop units on Victoria Street which form part of the centre, but are under separate ownership.
Funding for the acquisition will be secured through Prudential Borrowing powers.
The management company that operated the centre on behalf of the previous owners is expected to remain in place for an interim period until the council has determined more permanent arrangements.
The council spokeswoman added: “The centre trades well with high levels of occupancy and the income streams are strong.
“However, the company that owned it was clearly not in a position to make serious investment and that could ultimately have resulted in a decline in the centre which would not be good for Blackpool. All of the expert advice we have been given says that this is a great investment for the council.”
Uncertainty over the future of the Houndshill was believed to be behind delays to grand plans to transform Blackpool town centre.
The current Wilko building is due to be demolished in the new year to make way for a tram terminal on the Talbot Road site. A new four-star hotel is also planned.
An expansion to the Houndshill, on land at Tower Street, will provide space for Wilko to relocate, with a new cinema above.
But work on that element of the scheme has yet to start, despite originally being scheduled for completion next year.
It is understood the uncertainty over the Houndshill was a factor in the hold-up.