Newport Friars Walk: Debenhams to open store in 2015 in city regeneration
Debenhams has been confirmed as the flagship store for a multimillion-pound shopping revamp which civic leaders hope will help to revive Newport.
The 93,000 sq ft store will be part of the Friars Walk development in John Frost Square, which received planning permission last month.
The original £200m project was scrapped in 2009.
Developer Queensberry Real Estate said the present £100m plan would act as a catalyst to regenerate the city.
Queensberry has said the current design is more deliverable and practical.
It's fair to say that big retail schemes don't get off the ground unless an anchor tenant like Debenhams is signed up first.
From a financial nuts and bolts point of view, it means that those funding the scheme have a guaranteed income stream and crucially it sends out the right messages to other retailers who are considering signing up.
The regeneration body Newport Unlimited said as much today when it said commitments from other retail and leisure operations are sure to follow.
Friars Walk was unlucky in that it got caught up in the credit crunch, unlike St David's 2 in Cardiff which was further down the track and had already got underway before funding sources froze up so dramatically.
Today's announcement means it will now go ahead and provide much-needed help to a city centre that has suffered more than most with retailers like Marks and Spencer and Next pulling out of the centre and many job losses at the Passport Office.
Friars Walk is not the only boost Newport has had in recent months with the announcement by Admiral Insurance that it's building a new office and bringing hundreds of jobs into the city centre.
Debenhams is expected to open in autumn 2015. Existing buildings in John Frost Square area will be demolished to create the store, along with 35 shop units, an eight-screen cinema and up to 10 restaurants and cafes.
A new bus station and a 360-space car park are also part of the project and building work is expected to begin next year.
Gareth Dougherty, Debenhams' acquisitions manager, said the city had been a priority for the company because it was one of the largest UK cities without one of its store.
"The development will give us the opportunity to bring the Debenhams brand and its designers to Newport," he said.
"It is recognition of the huge potential of a revitalised Newport," said Queensberry commercial partner Stuart Harris.
"We are now in the process of agreeing terms with other major retailers who have also recognised the innovative approach of the city council and ourselves," he added.
Bill Mayne, chairman of urban regeneration company Newport Unlimited, said: "It is an incredibly important demonstration of the commitment of such a key retailer to the city's future... I am confident that we will hear further positive announcements in the near future."
Tracey Lee, managing director of Newport council, said the store had been on Newport's "wish list" for many years.
"We are delighted that the company believes the city is a good location for its business," she said.