Over the past year the “redevelopment” of the famous former department store Joplings has come into place. Left vacant for the most part of a decade, hopes were high that the building would be soon given a new lease of life as it was to be transformed into student accommodation and retail space.
After frequent delays, the wheels finally set in motion throughout 2018 and 2019 which saw the derelict site re-established as “Jopling House” with accommodation marketed under the tagline “groovy students”. At the start of this year, a new Premier Convenience Store also opened on the site.
Whilst for businesses all around the world 2020 has proved to be an unprecedented disaster, with economies sinking and unemployment soaring owing to the covid-19, these circumstances seem to do little to justify the fact that the redevelopment of the Joplings site appears to be a failure, and a grim one at that with very shoddy characteristics.
First of all, the new convenience store appears to have shut down already or is in some state of uncertainty. Whilst they can be excused given few businesses are doing well right now, this has happened despite the fact the University year is starting again. The accommodation around it is hardly vacant. Given that the store was huge (and akin to a mini-supermarket) it is obvious that occupying prime retail space its rent was huge, and subsequently unsustainable. Despite being on student accommodation, it was always quiet.
Secondly, the building continues to look ugly, derelict and unappealing. The developers on the site have done a shoddy job on the exterior which has merely involved a lick of unappealing black paint to a set of shutters. It continues to send off vibes as dirty and downtrodden. It fails way short of what people hoped for it to be. Whilst to their credit they have re-created the clock at the front of the building, it is considerably less attractive than the iconic 1960s timepiece and logo as the store was known for. The red and black colour scheme on a white backdrop is an eyesore to say the least. Its a step backwards.
Given this, what is next for Joplings? The covid hammering of the economy has of course put on hold any future investment into the site and stifled hope for more retail units to open up there, but even for what it has it is struggling to stay afloat. The transformation of the famous store into student accommodation has not sparked a revival or new lease of life into the area at all. The student presence has not been a gamechanger and the fact even a mini supermarket has seemingly failed indicates it is not a bonanza for the city centre.
Shutters have merely changed from blue to black.