Deals signal transformation of Blackpool town centre

Houndshill phase 2

Blackpool Council has signed three key deals that will help transform the town centre, including an innovative, multimedia, entertainment venue.

The deals all relate to phase two of the Houndshill Shopping Centre development. Details on the deals include:

  • The signing of a 25-year lease with Tower Cinemas (Blackpool) for a nine-screen, IMAX-ready multimedia complex.
  • The return of hardware and household retailer Wilko, formerly located at the old Fine Fare building on Talbot Road, which was demolished towards the end of last year to make way for next phase of the Talbot Gateway development which includes a tram interchange, four-star Holiday Inn and Marco Pierre White restaurant. Wilko will take a 15-year lease with the council on a new, purpose-built 22,500 sq ft unit on the site of the Tower Street car park.
  • Completion of a contract with Coolsilk, the developer behind Blackpool’s first five-star hotel, The Sands Venue Resort Hotel and Spa, for the sale of Tower Street outdoor car park which will enable the £20m Houndshill phase two development to go ahead.

The development sees Tower Cinemas (Blackpool), trading as MMC Cinemas, launch a unique multimedia cinema/conferencing and entertainment centre providing an 850-seat venue, with nine state-of-the-art digital screens, including a giant PLF (premium large screen format) IMAX-ready central screen, set to be the largest in the North West, within a 40,500 sq ft unit.

Designs also include flexible seating to allow screens to double as conference venue spaces, designated incubator space for the region’s digital/media start-up businesses, and an e-sports café.

Work is expected to commence on the Tower Street site in March and be completed by Spring 2022. The multimedia cinema complex alone is set to create 30 full time jobs, and act as the catalyst for multimedia training, and business incubation.

The overall scheme has been facilitated by £5m of funding from the Government’s COVID-19 Getting Building Fund, following formal approval by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in October last year.

Blackpool Council will fund the balance of the scheme through prudential borrowing.

The council acquired the Houndshill Shopping Centre for £47.6m in November 2019, as part of its long term strategy to revitalise the town centre.

The phase two extension will also include two restaurants totalling 3,760 sq ft that will be delivered to shell specification. The council is in advanced negotiations with leisure operators for these units.

Cllr Lynn Williams, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “We have always made it very clear that our acquisition of the Houndshill was the first step in revitalising Blackpool town centre by introducing high quality leisure attractions to complement the existing retail offer.

“If the town centre is to prosper, we have to provide new reasons to attract residents and visitors. The signing of these three contracts paves the way for us to take a major step along that road.”

A Wilko spokesperson said: “After a lot of searching, we’re delighted to have finally found a new home for our store.”

John Sullivan, founder of MMC Cinemas, said: “Blackpool has an astonishing heritage as a leisure destination for the North West region and beyond, and this multi-media centre is set to re-cement that reputation. Its flexible design is geared to the needs of the town and wider Lancashire needs, offering not only a destination venue to experience the latest cinema releases, but also flexible to enable conferences, space to encourage developing local business and much, much more.

“We are particularly excited about its ability for Blackpool to tap into the growing e-sports trend with dedicated gaming space.”

Steve Fogg, chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: “It is wonderful to hear that the Houndshill development is a step closer to being realised and that monies secured from the LEP’s Getting Building Fund allocation has enabled this to happen.

“The Lancashire Enterprise Partnership is in regular dialogue with government to ensure the economic effects are minimised and the county receives the support it needs and deserves.  By working closely with our partners, we have successfully secured a total of £34.1m from the Getting Building Fund for investment in quality projects which will drive economic recovery and create jobs.”

Grahams will be the main contractor on the Tower Street site with CBRE as the project build managers and cost consultants. Eddison’s is the property management company for Houndshill Shopping Centre.