Take a look inside the former Ipswich Co-op headquarters and store
- Credit: Archant
The former Ipswich Co-operative Society head office Carr Street is being transformed to create 33 new town centre homes over what was the landmark department store.
Work has started on clearing the interior of the complex of buildings, which stretch from Carr Street back to Cox Lane, ready for refurbishment and conversion.
The project is being taken forward by developer Joe Fogel, who has converted other town centre landmark buildings into homes, in partnership with John Howard.
Charlotte House, the former First Floor Club in Tacket Street, is one of Joe’s projects as is the former Dolce Vita nightclub, in St Margaret’s Street, which is nearing completion as homes.
Carr House, as it will be known, has been standing empty since 2010. The Co-op moved out the previous year and the shop was taken over by Vergo for a short time before the company went into administration.
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The offices above the shop units are largely unchanged, they are packed with original features, such as the stunning wrought iron staircases, the lift, panelling in the boardroom, money drawers in the payment office - and giant metal safes which will be a challenge to remove.
Joe Fogel said: “It is like they walked out yesterday. It is in lovely condition.
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“There are a lot of original features including the lift, which we are keeping.
“The exterior is in very good condition too.”
He continued: “It is an amazing building, and is like a maze inside.”
It is expected that the conversion will take 18 months, but first comes the major job of clearing the space.
Phase one will be the conversion of the warehouse building, at the rear, next to Cox Lane.
Builder Levi Draycott said they would be reinstating windows, and applying to add additional windows as well.
“If we get permission the conversion (of this stage) will take about eight to 10 weeks.”
Phase two is around the courtyard, and phase three the main building fronting Carr Street, he said.
The flats will occupy half of what people remember as the Co-op Department store.
The other block of empty shops, which also front Carr Street, are earmarked to become a new town centre school.
The two upper floor walkways above Cox Lane footpath, which lin the two blocks, will be removed.
Mr Fogel believes the flat will be popular with buyers, especially buy-to-let purchasers.
He said: “Town centre homes remain very popular. Charlotte House is fully let and we have good response to the Dolce Vita flats.
“There is still a very busy rental market in Ipswich. Perhaps people are holding fire on buying, so more people are renting instead.”
Co-op memories - Dave Vincent
Dave Vincent is one of hundreds of Ipswich residents who will remember frequent trips to the Ipswich store, here he shares his memories.
I remember the banking hall, and coming here with my mum to collect her ‘divi’ when I was a schoolboy.
Mum had an early four-figure dividend membership number. My own divi number was five figures.
And at Christmas the Co-op usually turned part of this building into the biggest toy shop in town. It was a feast for young eyes.
Collecting the dividend, especially in December, was important for many Ipswich families.
I wonder how much of that money stayed at the toy department?