Backlot - New IMAX Cinema in Blackpool!

Extending Houndshill Shopping Centre – it’s Well Underway!

Various plans have been on the table over recent years for extending Houndshill Shopping Centre. Now, work is nearing completion in Spring 2024.

Bringing High Quality Retail and Leisure to Blackpool

Like a giant game of chess, one town centre development is dependent on another. Primarily because of Phase Two works at Talbot Gateway, the new tramway extension at Talbot Road, North Shore. Lining all of these big regeneration projects up to deliver seamlessly in a row is a huge challenge!

Extending the Houndshill Shopping Centre is part of Blackpool Council’s plan to diversify and modernise the town centre. In turn this will encourage residents and visitors to choose Blackpool as their main shopping centre of choice. It means celebrating our well known heritage buildings, driving footfall to new areas of the town and encouraging people to stay for longer. The Houndshill Phase 2 extension will deliver a new range of high-quality entertainment, retail and leisure choices. They’ll meet the needs of the modern family, complement the existing shops at the Houndshill, boost both day and night time business, and increase the amount of time and money spent in the town centre.

Blackpool Council acquires Houndshill Shopping Centre

In November 2019 Blackpool Council acquired Houndshill Shopping Centre in a move aimed at catalysing the regeneration of the town centre. The Council had been in discussions for some time with the previous owner of the centre, BCC Eiffel and its funders.

They decided to step in following the appointment of receivers who had taken over the running of the centre and bought it for £47.6m. A lot of money but less than half the price originally paid by BCC. The move followed several months of negotiation, due diligence and extensive advice from leading national retail experts. With more than 60 outlets it’s the largest shopping centre on the Fylde Coast, in a key location in Blackpool town centre. As part of the purchase, the Council also took ownership of the 770-space multi-storey car park.

Investing in Blackpool’s Future

The acquisition not only secured the future of the centre but also enabled the Phase Two development to go ahead. Including restaurants and a cinema, it provides a significant boost for the night time economy.

A Blackpool Council spokesperson, said: “This is a hugely positive move for the town that will give us direct control over the Fylde Coast’s major retail centre. This acquisition will deliver a significant financial return to the Council. More importantly, it will allow us to invest in a shopping centre that is fundamentally important to Blackpool’s future. Moving the centre into Council ownership will provide significant benefits to our town and our residents.”

The overall Phase Two development was made possible with £5m of funding from the Government’s COVID-19 Getting Building Fund, following formal approval by the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in October 2018. Blackpool Council will fund the balance of the scheme through prudential borrowing.

Tower Street Development - Extending Houndshill Shopping Centre
Artists impression of the Tower Street Development – Extending Houndshill Shopping Centre

In August 2020, Blackpool also successfully secured £8.6m of funding for two ‘shovel ready’ town centre regeneration projects. The Getting Building Fund was designed to give the economy a quick boost, post Covid-19. The aim being to generate new development activity within 18 months, to help create jobs and raise overall demand in the economy. Abingdon Street Market was the other Blackpool project to receive funding.

Houndshill Shopping Centre
More about shopping at Houndshill

Three New Deals for Extending Houndshill Shopping Centre

Published Feb 2021. Blackpool Council signed three key deals in February 2021 that will help transform the town centre, including an innovative, multimedia, entertainment venue.

1. New Land

Completion of a contract for the purchase of Tower Street outdoor car park to enable the £20m Houndshill phase two development to go ahead. Coolsilk, the developer behind The Sands Venue Resort Hotel and Spa, previously owned the site. The completion of the purchase by the council of the Tower Street Car Park Site, enables the development of the land to go ahead and leases to be agreed for: 

2. New Cinema

Entering into a 25 year lease with Tower Cinemas (Blackpool) Ltd* for a nine-screen, IMAX-ready multimedia complex. *Backlot Cinema as we now know it.

Backlot Cinema will be a unique cinema/conferencing and entertainment centre providing an 850 seat venue, with nine state-of-the-art digital screens, including a giant PLF (Premium Large Screen Format) IMAX-ready central screen, set to be the largest in the North West, within a 40,500 sq ft unit. Designs also include flexible seating to allow screens to double as conference venue spaces. Plus designated incubator space for the region’s digital and media start-up businesses, and an e-sports café. 

It marks the official start of a new cinematic journey for Blackpool with a new complex that pays homage to the heritage of this exceptional town. It’s not a ready-made cinema brand for Blackpool; Blackpool will help to shape this flexible arts and community space. Operators Backlot Cinema want to make it a place where people can come together and make use of this flexible space for education, leisure, shopping, entertainment, workspaces and so much more.

3. New Wilko (or something!)

Plans were that the hardware and household retailer would return to Blackpool with a 15-year lease with the council on the new, purpose-built 22,500 sq ft unit. Wilko was previously located at the old Fine Fare building on Talbot Road, demolished for next phase of the Talbot Gateway development which includes a tram interchange plus the Holiday Inn and Marco Pierre White restaurant.

Of course we all know what happened to Wilko! With the building work progressing nicely, the chain went into administration on 10 August 2023. Fortunately, fit out of the unit for a retail store hadn’t begun, which at least gives prospective tenants greater flexibility. Watch this space – when we know what it will become we’ll let you know!

Units will be fitted out by the new tenants. The extension will connect to the existing centre at both ground and first floor levels. GRAHAM is the lead contractor and CBRE the project manager and cost consultant for the scheme.

The completed Phase 2 scheme will deliver:

  • Over 100 jobs created both directly through the scheme and locally
  • 0.5 acres of brownfield land developed
  • 76,500 sq. ft. of new commercial floorspace
  • Approx. over 260 construction jobs created over the build period  
  • Increase of 1.2m shoppers and visitors to the Houndshill Shopping Centre

Improving the Town Centre

Previously, the land between Coronation Street and Tower Street, was a temporary surface car park.

Temporary car park between Tower Street and Coronation Street, site for extending Houndshill Shopping Centre
Temporary car park between Tower Street and Coronation Street, site for extending Houndshill Shopping Centre

Visit Fylde Coast took a walk round the site in August 2020, before any of the redevelopment work gets going. Take a look –

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Houndshill Phase 2 Begins with a Giant Bucket and Spade!

The main construction contract at Houndshill Shopping Centre began with groundbreaking on Friday 24 September 2021. And in a style only fitting for the iconic seaside resort of Blackpool, the occasion was marked with a ceremonial first (bucket) and spade in the ground!

Extending Houndshill Shopping Centre - Work gets Underway
Picture: Martin Bostock. Ground breaking at Phase 2 of Blackpool’s Houndshill redevelopment.

Pictured above are members of the development team. From left to right: Cllr Mark Smith, James Dorling Wilko, Clare Davies MMC Cinemas, Cllr Lynn Williams Leader of Blackpool Council. Back row – representatives from Eddisons, CBRE, Blackpool Council and GRAHAM.

During the works-

The former Tower Street car park is now the site of the multi-million pound development, so obviously that permanently closed!

Contractors have worked miracles in the tight, town centre site, building a big, tall building in a really confined space. Access to the Houndshill car park, the M&S collection point and the staff entrance to the Winter Gardens has been maintained throughout and most of the building work took place behind hoardings. The side entrance to the Houndshill Shopping Centre has been closed throughout.

Take a look at progress in January 2023 –

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Building the Houndshill Extension

Take a look at these photos of work at the site throughout the duration of the build –

Previous Plans for the Site

Do you remember the old buildings on this plot? How time flies – it was February 2011 when they were demolished! See how the Houndshill site has changed over the last 150+ years.

You might also have seen various site investigations taking place here over the years. Rigs have taken core samples and carried out various other tests.

Site investigations at the site of extending Houndshill Shopping Centre
Site investigations in 2016 at the corner of Tower Street car park, opposite the door to New Look

Earlier unsuccessful plans in 2016 had included a new hotel, as reported in the Gazette.

2016 plans for a new hotel at the Houndshill site
2016 plans for a new hotel at the Houndshill Phase Two site

While you’re here…

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