Last week I attended a webinar from Bisnow – The next turn of the wheel: bringing empty department stores back to life – which raised the important discussion on how we can effectively repurpose empty department stores into something that will fulfil the needs of the local community as well as driving footfall and profits for business across a scope of different sectors.

Living in South London I’ve become quite familiar with an exemplar case study for repurposing which is the award-winning The Department Store in Brixton – London’s first ever department store which first opened in 1876 as Bon Marche. It has been transformed into a spacious, design-led establishment offering everything from fashionable retail brands, a Post Office, work and events spaces, restaurants and bars (including one rooftop bar) and a members’ lounge. The Department Store also hosts a range of educational, social and wellness events and keeps in touch with the community via a social media app. The building holds true to its former life with its beautiful Art Nouveau features remaining in place – most notably, the diamond-paned glass dome and turret situated just off of Brixton Road.

I think it’s interesting to look at how the extensive space and historical architecture that department stores have to offer can be utilised and still appreciated, and how much of its original make-up can be carried through into it’s new use, especially as our need for new ways of working and living are at the forefront of everyone’s mind due to the new world we are living in. With its co-working spaces alongside the incorporation of everyday essentials, like the Post Office, The Department Store has adapted its offering to reflect the demands of its community.

The department store as a centre of gravity in any urban environment means that there are many positives to the repurposing of these (sometimes) grand and elegant designs – allowing these buildings to continue to act as social and economic focal points for towns and cities for decades to come.

One of Redwood Consulting’s core strengths is the real estate sector expertise we have in identifying how and where to add value to repurposing projects with well-considered communication strategies. From conception of the project through to the launch, we have worked with Local Authorities, Developers, Architects and Investment Funds to name a few, to position and reposition, create destinations and boost the profile of developments of all types and sizes, helping to economically lift what were often out-dated destinations across the UK and Europe. Clients come back to us for our communications services because they know that we can spot opportunities to enhance a scheme through a plethora of channels – be it digital public consultations in the era of COVID-19 or creating innovative thought leadership articles in your key target publication, in even the most challenging of times.

Make sure to check out our website for further details of what we do and how we can help you.