The empty shops, offices and pubs in Walsall town centre set to be converted into 233 homes

With empty shops, pubs and office buildings becoming a depressing long-term norm on high streets, an increasing number of housing developments are starting to take over town centres.

The former Walsall police station in Green Lane being demolished. PIC: BM3 Architecture
The former Walsall police station in Green Lane being demolished. PIC: BM3 Architecture

When Walsall Council unveiled its Master Plan to revitalise the ailing town centre, regeneration bosses said an increased residential offer would play a significant part in bringing more footfall to the area.

Developers have also said converting long term empty buildings into apartments provide a boost to town centres.

Here are some prominent buildings in and around Walsall town centre which have seen planning permission granted or applications submitted for converting into flats.

Chicago Rock Café, Lichfield Street

Chicago Rock Cafe on Lichfield Street, Walsall, in 2004

The Grade II Listed venue has been home to restaurants and bars, including the Chicago Rock Café chain over the years.

But it has stood empty for around four years since it’s last incarnation as Equator nightclub closed its doors in 2018.

The building is in a poor condition and is rapidly deteriorating as a result of vandalism, water damage and rot setting in.

It will be given a new lease of life after Walsall Council planners approved a proposal by developer K5unner Properties to convert it into 28 apartments.

Walsall Police Station, Green Lane

The former Walsall police station in Green Lane being demolished. PIC: BM3 Architecture

The former cop shop was demolished in 2019 after the cells were slammed shut for the last time the previous year.

Sat on a major gateway into the town centre, the old station was built in the 1960s and served for more than 50 years before it was closed due to cost cutting measures by the force.

In 2021, members of Walsall Council’s planning committee gave the go-ahead to PJK Developments to create a 130-apartment block in its place.

The completed development will feature 47 one bedroom and 83 two bedroom apartments with a residents’ lounge, small office, communal garden, cycle shelter and 68 parking spaces.

Globe House

The Grade II listed former Walsall Science and Art Institute in Walsall town centre. Photo: Google

For years, the Victorian-era Globe House opposite the Cenotaph in Bradford Place was home to the Walsall Science and Art Institute.

Globe Properties bought the Grade II listed building in 2004 and it was converted into offices for the company, other private firms and Walsall Council.

However, occupancy fell below 30 per cent and, in 2021, proposals for 35 apartments were put forward by Globe.

Earlier this month, West Midlands Combined Authority announced it would provide some funding to help ensure the project goes ahead.

The Imperial, Darwall Street

The Imperial in Darwall Street. Walsall

The iconic 19th century building was previously a picture house, theatre and a bingo hall before its final function as a Wetherspoon pub.

Famed for its features (which included huge models of dinosaurs!), The Imperial was a popular boozer amongst locals until closing time in 2016.

It has sat empty ever since and, last year, Lodge Housing Ltd put forward an application to turn it into 21 new apartments.

But The Cinema Theatre Association, Theatres Trust and regional branch of the Victorian Society have objected to the proposal and are urging the plans to be rejected.

Offices, Bradford Street

Disused offices in Bradford Street, Walsall. Photo: Google

Three historic buildings on another key gateway into Walsall town centre were once thriving offices for lettings agents.

But they have been vacant for around 14 years and prompted plans being put forward to redevelop them into residential projects.

Controversial plans for a 23-bed HMO – later reduced to 16 – sparked strong objections from neighbours who worried about crime and anti-social behaviour.

A new plan for five two and one-bedroom flats were given the green light last week.

Walsall Deaf Centre, Lichfield Street

The former Walsall Deaf Centre in Lichfield Street

The centre on Lichfield Street provided a range of services for deaf people in the borough for a number of years.

Decreasing user numbers and a loss of income resulted in the decision to close and sell of the facility at an emergency meeting in May 2019.

In January 2021, a plan to transform the empty building and create 14 apartments was submitted to Walsall Council planners. It is still being considered.

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