Ipswich: New owner pledges iconic`Wine Rack’ tower on Ipswich Waterfront will be completed

A view from Ipswich Waterfront with the unfinished 'Wine Rack' in the background

A view from Ipswich Waterfront with the unfinished 'Wine Rack' in the background - Credit: citizenside.com

The long awaited redevelopment of a major eyesore on Ipswich Waterfront could act as a catalyst for further development, it was claimed last night.

A sale has been agreed for Block A of the Regatta Quay complex – widely known as the “Wine Rack” – and purchaser Marina Developments (Ipswich) Ltd, has pledged it will be completed.

Last night borough leader David Ellesmere and Ipswich Central chief executive Paul Clement said they hoped the news would inspire confidence among developers and kick start regeneration in the area.

While it has stood skeletal and uncompleted during the financial collapse and the economic downturn there had been frequent rumours the “Wine Rack” would have to be demolished.

It became a symbol of the recession but now the landmark tower, a key part of the Regatta Quay scheme, will be completed.

Successful property developer and estate agent John Howard, exchanged contracts on the building late yesterday, for an undisclosed figure.

Property expert John Howard plans to create 150 one, two and three bedroom apartments as well as 20,000 sq ft of commercial space by employing local companies to complete the building.

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He said: “My business partner Jeremy Scowsill and I both have lived in Ipswich all our lives and this is a great opportunity to develop an iconic building into something we will be proud of.

“We plan to use local companies so it will be a big boost for the local economy.”

David Ellesmere, leader of Ipswich Borough Council, said: “This is absolutely fantastic news for the town.

“The Wine Rack has been a blot on the Waterfront for so many years and now it’s been announced it has been sold to a developer willing to complete it, I think that is the best thing possible.

“Hopefully that will kickstart the regeneration of the rest of the Waterfront. The key thing is about getting confidence in the market, and having a developer prepared to invest money will give this confidence to others.

“We know that every pound invested in residential development is repaid many-fold. The fact that the developer is proposing to use local firms as well, creating or securing jobs in the construction industry locally, is even better news.

“So long as this goes ahead, and we hope it will, this is a very big day for the town and something we should be very pleased about.”

Paul Clement, chief executive of Ipswich Central, said: “This is tremendous news.

“It has gone to the right owner, a local guy who will build it out quickly.

“I think this will be a catalyst which will re-start development in this part of the Waterfront. There will be a knock-on effect I am sure.”

Once the sale is completed the new owners intend to commence cladding the building within nine months and put homes and shop units on sale during 2015.

Mr Howard added: “The completion of this project will breathe new life into the area and provide high quality residential and commercial accommodation in the heart of the Waterfront.”

Originally from Felixstowe, where he worked in the family estate agency business, Mr Howard has had a career in property development, including urban regeneration schemes across the country,

Mr Howard, is also the managing director of Auction House UK, and is managing director of Fine & Country estate agency in Norwich.

He has purchased or sold more than 2,000 houses, flats and developments in the UK over 30 years working within the property business.

Work on the Wine Rack building halted in 2009 after the developer ran into financial difficulties.

Nigel Millar, one of the Baker Tilley administrators for City Living, the developer, said: “Clearly this building has been a topic of much debate within the town over recent years.

“We have been working hard, along with our agents Savills, since our appointment to find a viable solution for this particular building, and I am delighted that we are able to announce the sale which we have agreed which should help transform the Ipswich Waterfront and benefit the community as a whole.

“There are still a few loose ends to tie up before the sale is able to complete. A variation to the original planning consent was not formalised by City Living before the concrete frame was built so we are going through the process with the local council to obtain the necessary consent but we hope that this will be resolved quickly.”