Exciting new chapter for old Ottakar's bookshop in White Hart Street
Wycombe District Council has started work on the refurbishment of the long-vacant former Ottakar’s store.
The prominent building, formally known as 26-28 White Hart Street, was previously owned by an offshore absentee landlord. The council actively sought to acquire the property and was in protracted negotiations with the owner and, when it finally went up for sale, moved quickly to buy it for the benefit of the town.
Cllr Steve Broadbent, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration, explained: “This store is central to our vision to regenerate the heart of the town. It’s a key building in a central location, overlooking Queens Square which offers a natural flow between the town centre and Eden.
“For too long the building has been an eyesore. Now we are moving ahead to transform it.”
This is the latest and arguably the most ambitious in WDC’s ongoing initiative to acquire vacant shops, refurbish them and re-let them in a readily occupiable condition, at competitive rents that attract independent businesses, to add vitality to the town centre.
Previous examples include the ex-Millets store in Church Street – now the Mad Squirrel craft brewery shop and bar, and the ex-Greggs store in the High Street – now The Works ice cream factory and restaurant.
At the former Ottakar’s, strip-out work is nearing completion. This has revealed the need to remove the large plate glass windowed shop fronts ahead of the refurbishment, as they were found to be unstable.
The aim is to convert the ground floor to two units with A3 café/bar/restaurant use, with a shared covered external seating area, and the first floor to a stylish design studio/office, with its own entrance in Bull Lane. Conversion works are expected to start in August.
Externally, plans are being drawn up for a striking reclad of the building.
Cllr Broadbent said: “Our vision is to make it an exciting, iconic addition to the townscape and to breathe new life into Queens Square which is ideally located for all kinds of pop-up and experience events.
“This in turn will help attract new businesses that provide an extra dimension to the visitor experience of the town.”
A planning application will be submitted shortly.