With Argos gone and flats in the pipeline – what does the future hold for Ipswich’s Carr Street?
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Coronavirus could “accelerate” a loss of retailers in Carr Street which has been “struggling for decades”, says the leader of Ipswich council. So what does the future hold for this end of the town centre?
For decades the town centre ran east to west from Carr Street to Westgate Street, with stores such as the Co-op drawing large footfall to the areas.
However, in recent years a number of larger retailers and department stores have moved out – including Argos which closed in 2019 and the Co-op whose former home has stood vacant since 2010.
MORE: What is next for the former Ipswich Argos store?David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said there has been a “steady erosion of retail” in the east of the town centre for many years, following a rise in out of town sites and online shopping.
“Carr Street has been struggling for decades,” explained the council leader. “When the Co-op HQ was there it drove footfall along the street, but now the town centre and the waterfront are the two main parts of Ipswich, so it is important we increase movement between the two.”
He said “coronavirus could accelerate these trends” and will lead to less retail in the town centre – with Carr Street and Westgate Street seeming to be “hit the hardest”.
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What does the future look like for Carr Street?
Plans have been submitted to transform the Argos store into 22 flats and a gym, with a rooftop garden.
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Meanwhile, the former Co-op site is being transformed into flats and a free school.
MORE: Take a look inside the former Ipswich Co-op headquarters and storeMr Ellesmere said it is down to the council to respond to the Covid-19 situation and become more flexible about the use of empty town centre spaces, such as those in Carr Street, especially the areas with a need for a physical presence.
Speaking of the future of the area, Mr Ellesmere said: “School and housing are both possibilities we are looking into and we have also seen a dentist which is opening in the Buttermarket this summer.
“We will try and manage any empty premises and support developers where we can, but we must also be prepared to get involved.”
MORE: New dentist where you can watch Netflix during procedures to open in IpswichHe said the council needs to be more flexible about the use of a unit than it has been in the past, but should continue to support the retailers that still have a strong presence in Carr Street.
He explained: “There is the successful Hank’s Deli superstore which has recently opened in Carr Street.
“This shows the town centre is still attractive to our niche and independent traders.”
‘Shopping is not going to be the same’
One of the ways the council pledges to support these retailers is by introducing five hours of free parking in Crown Street Car Park – hoping to entice shoppers back to the town centre after lockdown.
MORE: Five hours free parking for Ipswich shoppers“As a council and representing the public sector, we need to step in,” said Mr Ellesmere.
“We need to assess any empty buildings in the town centre after lockdown and see if we can get involved by purchasing the site and converting it into smaller units, making them more attractive to independent retailers.”
He added: “It is going to be a very strange situation in the town centre and although we do want people to come back, equally, we have to abide by social distancing measures.
“Shopping is not going to be the same experience until a vaccine or treatment is found.”
Despite Mr Ellesmere fearing there “will be a lot of empty buildings in the town” as a result of coronavirus, the council leader confirmed that Deichmann is still set to move into the former Dorothy Perkins and Burton store in Tavern Street.
MORE: Burton and Dorothy Perkins to exit town centre - to make way for a new shoe shopHe also said there has been “strong interest” from a restaurant chain in the Old Post Office in the town centre – which is currently undergoing a huge refurbishment to make it “more attractive” to possible tenants.
MORE: Restoration work starts at the Old Post Office on Ipswich CornhillWhat changes would you like to see made to Carr Street?
When asked about the future of Carr Street and the old Argos store, many people said the “entire street should be redeveloped”.
Nicholas Grimsey suggested: “Turn that end of town into flats and houses, seeing as a school is going on the old Co-op site. “It will condense the shopping units to a more central location and then you could focus on getting big companies to open up in the closed units in town, rather than stretching them all across multiple closed units.”
He added: “Then you could focus on helping independently owned businesses opening up units so that there’s a good mix.” Among the other suggestions were flats for the homeless, charity shops, and an indoor market was also a popular proposal.
A Disney store was also suggested by readers, along with a bar and a youth club for under 18’s.
What would you like to see take its place? Share your thoughts in the comments below.