New Sports Direct still expected by mid-2022 in Ipswich town centre
- Credit: Paul Geater
Town centre bosses in Ipswich remain confident that Sports Direct and other related businesses will be opening a new "department store" in the former BHS in the Butter Market street by the summer.
Meanwhile, Sports Direct's current shop could have a future as housing.
Fraser Group, the company that owns Sports Direct, House of Fraser, Game and Jack Wills alongside other high street brands, bought the large BHS store in early 2020.
It has been vacant since BHS went into administration in 2016 - and the surprise purchase came after plans to redevelop the site as smaller units of bars, shops and restaurants failed to take off.
Last year it was hoped that work reopen the store could be completed soon after Christmas, but nothing has so far happened - although Sports Direct will have to be out of its current first-floor unit in Carr Street by the summer.
It has not renewed the lease on that and its owner is looking for an alternative use.
As Carr Street is no longer considered to be part of the main shopping heart of the town, it is likely that the first-floor space will be turned into flats - the owner is already starting to make plans for the future.
Structural changes to the former BHS building were made in late 2020 after the first lockdown - and the move had been expected to take place last year.
However last winter's lockdown and Fraser Group turning its attention to moving into a former Marks and Spencer store in Great Yarmouth prompted a further delay to the plans.
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The final fitting that would be needed to prepare the building for opening should not take too long - and town centre bosses are expecting it to open towards the end of May.
Requests for information about the plans for the store have not resulted in a response from the Fraser Group on this occasion - but they did confirm the original purchase and the interior work in 2020 was carried out by a company that regularly works for them.