FRESH glimmers of hope have emerged for York city centre amidst the gloom caused by the pandemic, The Press can reveal.

Several empty properties - some of which have been lying empty and boarded up for years and others of which have shut since the lockdown began - could finally reopen their doors.

  • l Planning permission has been granted for alterations to part of the former BHS store in Feasegate, which has lain empty and boarded up since the store shut in 2016, which would allow it to finally reopen as Evans, a specialist bike shop.
  •  Plans have been submitted for the former CMD fashion store, also in Feasegate and closed since 2017, to be converted into a ‘well-known’ restaurant.
  • l A local operator and a national chain are both interested in taking over the former Gusto Italian restaurant in Little Stonegate, which has closed permanently under a Company Voluntary Arrangement.(CVA)
  •  Interest is so great in taking over the former Wallace Arnold shop in Colliergate that businesspeople have been directly approaching workmen carrying out a refurbishment.

“Almost unbelievably, contractors are passing us contact details of people wanting to view in a Covid-safe manner on completion,” said Andrew Hedley, of Blacks property consultants.

“We are also finding now that some of the higher rental units are seeing a return of those who viewed at the start of the year; footfall figures have been very helpful to us when these people inevitably make comparisons with Leeds etc.”

Chartered surveyor and estate agent Barry Crux said he had only just arranged for the former Gusto restaurant - which was one of the largest in the city centre, with 100-plus covers, two reception bars and a large catering kitchen - to go on the market.

“We have received a good deal of early interest and discussions are in hand with a local operator as well as a national restaurant group looking to find a site in York,” he said.

“In the meantime, we are receiving encouraging numbers of inquiries for a wide range of property types, which includes existing businesses which we have on the market.

“I believe that this reflects the strength of York as a place to do business and benefit from its wide economic base.”

City of York Council has approved proposals for a new glazed shopfront and signs for Evans at the old BHS store entrance in Feasegate, but owner Frasers Group was unable to say when or if work would start on the refurbishment, saying: “Nothing to report in terms of confirmation on this fixture at the moment. We’ll be in touch when we have a clearer view.”

A report submitted to the council to accompany a planning application by Wetherby Investments 2005 Limited for a change of use of the old CMD fashion shop into a ‘well-known’ restaurant says the unit is currently vacant and has been since January 2017.

It said it had been unsuccessfully marketed for 24 months for retailing use and a restaurant in Feasegate would ‘encourage footfall, enhance the vitality and viability of the area'.