Express & Star comment: City in limbo as Beatties deal collapses
Without doubt, the collapse of talks over the future of Beatties is a major blow for Wolverhampton.
The iconic site was poised to be taken over by the University of Wolverhampton, which had proposed a scheme where the building would be used for lectures while still maintaining an element of retail.
But it has now emerged that education bosses have walked away from the negotiating table.
As is so often the case, financial concerns appear to have dictated the university’s decision, with surveys revealing that the cost of creating the planned facility were too high.
With the deal seemingly dead in the water, the site is left in limbo, although it is believed there are a number of other potential buyers on the horizon.
At this point, it seems the best case scenario could involve housing developers moving forward with a deal to transform the building into dozens of homes. This would have the significant drawback of ending the retail offer at the site after 140 years.
Another potential option could see the city council return with a bid. The authority had been interested in taking Beatties over before stepping aside to clear the path for the university.
However, with public finances continuing to be tight, such a deal would involve a big commitment on the council’s part – particularly when it is unlikely that any scheme would run at a profit for many years.
Council bosses also have the Westside project to consider, which is causing serious concerns across the city as a result of legal red tape. With the cinema chain that underpins the whole scheme still not confirmed, it is hardly surprising that there have been murmerings of Westside being ‘another Summer Row’.
There is a positive feel to much of what is going on in the city. The Metro extension is finally nearing its conclusion, and work to revamp the railway station is gathering pace.
Wolverhampton Council – and the city as a whole – really could do with a quick resolution to the latest blow for our beloved Beatties building.