Flagship Debenhams building goes up for sale or rent

Debenhams building Orford Place Norwich

A new future for the building formerly occupied by Debenhams awaits as it goes up for sale or rent. - Credit: Supplied by GCW

The landmark six-storey Debenhams building in the centre of Norwich has gone on the market.

Orford House, in Orford Place, had been occupied by Debenhams since the 1970s but is now available for purchase outright or for a monthly commercial rent.

Debenhams in Norwich

The building as Debenhams, which occupied it since the 1970s. - Credit: Archant

Agents London-based GCW, which is marketing the building on behalf of its Irish owner, would not divulge the price.

Instead, it said because so many different uses were possible "it was best to let the market decide". In 2005, the building sold for more than £20m.

Debenhams in Norwich

An old photo of Debenhams in Norwich - Credit: Archant

The listing of the building, which was built in 1956, comes after Debenhams was bought out of administration by the Boohoo Group for £55m earlier this year. The deal did not include the buildings or staff.

GCW indicated that because the building - which covers 111,723 square feet - is not listed, it could be demolished for a new development.

It said that "seven national retailers" have already come forward and shown an interest in occupying the building's lower and ground floors.

It said there was potential for the building to be converted into a 150-bedroom hotel, as well as for a gym, student accommodation, office space, residential or a mixture of all these uses, subject to planning permission.

Callum Mortimer, of GCW, said: "We do have aspirations [on price], however because so many uses would be possible it is best to let the market decide.

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“We are open to discussions for the whole property or on a sub-divisional basis."

Debenhams building Norwich

The building when it was being created, finished in 1956. - Credit: Archant

The agents did give a nod to the nostalgic element of the building, adding: "Norwich’s flexibility and resilience are embodied by iconic buildings rich in nostalgia, Orford House being one of the largest and most visible in the city centre.

"Orford House’s incredible location and imposing physical presence are matched only by the affection Norwich people have for it."

Described by GCW as a "rarely available large floorplate and mixed-use repositioning opportunity", the firm said: 'We have received notes of interest from seven major national retailers.

"Due to a lack of large floor plates within the city centre there is a scarcity of medium to high end gyms in occupation. A sub-division of the ground floor would provide an excellent restaurant opportunity.

"There is a lack of supply of student accommodation within central Norwich, creating an exciting opportunity to capitalise on the high level of demand.

"Quality residential stock in central Norwich is in high demand and we believe potential end sales values to be up to £400 per square foot. An office scheme from first floor upwards could offer over 60,000 square foot of quality office accommodation with an impressive ground floor lobby and entrance.

Debenhams for sale

How the Orford Place building is being marketed by GCW. - Credit: GCW

"Due to the building’s location and prominence, Orford House provides a fantastic hotel opportunity. We believe at least 150 beds would be possible and this is an opportunity for a brand or developer to create Norwich’s flagship hotel."

And if the building isn't big enough, additional floors could be added, it suggests. It is for sale with vacant possession or for a new rental lease for a minimum of 10 years.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich BID, Business Improvement District, said they did not want the entire building used as apartments.

Stefan Gurney, Norwich BID. Pic: Archant

Stefan Gurney, Norwich BID. Pic: Archant - Credit: Archant

"I don't think it would be right for the city for it to be outright residential, it needs to be retained as an economic driver for the city," he said.

"It really is going to be driven by the market, it's a really good space right in the heart of the city for a prime redevelopment of multi uses."

Guy Gowing, managing partner at Arnolds Keys property agency in Norwich, said: "It's good they've marketed it so quickly, a new buyer could get involved who is ambitious for its future."

The building is owned by the family of the late Barney Eastwood, an Irish boxing promoter and bookmaker. They said they did not want to comment further.