An £8.4 million scheme to transform the former post office site in Bury St Edmunds will be discussed on Tuesday.
St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s cabinet will consider options for 17-18 Cornhill – which it purchased for £1.68 million last year after the Post Office moved into neighbouring WH Smith – including a £6.72 million redevelopment.
The project could see the historic Victorian facade retained and the rear of the site transformed into retail spaces and 12 apartments.
The Market Thoroughfare link between the town centre and arc shopping centre could be widened and a new shop facing into St Andrew’s Street South created.
A report to the cabinet, which will discuss the project at West Suffolk House at 6pm on Tuesday, says it ‘has the potential to be a flagship project for the council’.
The cabinet will also consider three other options, including: doing nothing, with the aim of finding a tenant; selling the building; and refurbishing the existing site.
If cabinet approves option four – the £6.72 million redevelopment– it will be considered by full council on April 24.
The cabinet report says the development would be funded from £1.68 million in capital receipts, £3.72 million from selling the leasehold of the apartments and by borrowing £2.83 million.
The estimated annual borrowing costs are £156,500 – an amount which the council could earn in annual rent from the retail units.
The report adds: “Although this option has a higher capital outlay and attracts the higher financial risks of the options, it is expected to achieve a breakeven financial position whilst meeting the aspirations for the town centre as identified in the Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Masterplan.”
Detailed design work will be carried out before a public exhibition, probably in June, while the council anticipates submitting a planning application in December.
It is hoped construction work would start in September 2019, with shops and houses being ready for occupation in September 2020.
Independent Cllr David Nettleton said: “I’m happy with the project.
“The main concern is that this scheme will go ahead without a proper expenditure income of when we’re likely to get a return on the money we’ve invested, which means we might be short on money for other projects within the town centre masterplan.
“Where will we be in five years time, where will we be in 10 years time and what’s the legacy we’re leaving for the next generation of councillors?”
Martyn Taylor, chairman of the Bury Society, said: “I would imagine the whole of the town would be very glad to see that side of the town tidied up.”
Asked why it was important to retain the facade of the building which dates back to 1895, he said: “We care for the past today for the future. You can’t have the town in aspic because there are going to be new developments but I think the council are sympathetic to listening to what can be done within the town centre.”
Cllr Alaric Pugh, cabinet member for planning and growth, said: “I am looking forward to seeing designs further explored over the next month or so.”