Dundee’s Wellgate Centre has been plunged into a deeper crisis by the closure of BHS.
The anchor tenant was to play a crucial role in the planned revival of the troubled shopping centre.
The much-needed redevelopment has now been thrown into turmoil by the devastating news that BHS cannot be saved and is being wound down.
The department store was to be one of two key operators strategically located to attract shoppers back to the once popular thoroughfare.
The other, Light Cinemas, was still keen to go ahead with its 900-seat, eight-screen multiplex at the Wellgate’s north end.
It can’t revive the centre on its own as a major tenant, and the centre’s owners and management as well as council leaders were hoping BHS would be the other major operator.
Last night the Wellgate’s management, on behalf of owners Orchard Street Investment Management, were unable to reveal their next move.
It was understood an alternative plan for the Wellgate in the event of the closure of BHS had been prepared, but no comment was offered on that proposition.
Orchard Street’s lack of response suggested their serious concern about the centre’s future in the wake of the BHS collapse.
Plans to revive the Wellgate, once Dundee’s premier city centre shopping complex but long eclipsed by the Overgate, were unveiled in 2013.
Proposals by commercial property specialists Orchard Street included family restaurants, cafés, leisure outlets and shops along with the multiplex in an ambitious venture that would create hundreds of jobs.
The plans were widely welcomed in promising a major boost to Dundee’s night-time economy as well as important investment to the east end of the city centre.
Light Cinemas was quick to show its hand and predicted a 2017 opening for its entertainment venue which it has already spent £100,000 pursuing.
Other parties were slow to declare their interest. Several were involved in negotiations but agreements to be part of the Wellgate’s revival proved elusive.
The well-documented struggles of BHS threw the redevelopment proposals into crisis. In April the centre’s management said the proposals were under review.
Peter Aitken, manager of the Wellgate, said at the time: “In light of the BHS speculation some time ago, our architects and consultants have been working on re-evaluating future development and general options for the centre over the past few weeks.”
Last night Mr Aitken said: “We are sad and disappointed to hear about the demise of BHS and our thoughts, first and foremost, are with the people directly affected, the local workforce.
“Having been part of the Wellgate family for almost 40 years, the loss of BHS is a serious blow to Dundee, both in terms of job losses and Dundee’s retail offering.
“The centre owners are now actively working on the options for the Wellgate.”
Dundee shoppers tell of their sadness at retailer’s demise
Shoppers told of their sympathy for the thousands of workers now facing an uncertain future.
Patricia Rice, 35, said: “My sister has been made redundant.
“She’s got three kids and that’s her going back on social security.
“It means that the kids are going to lose out on things.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with her.”
Ruby Clarke, 73, said: “It’s like so many of our cities – there’s shops closed all over the place.
“I’m very proud to be Dundonian.
“We’re a fighting city and I’m sure we’ll fight back.”