As Ipswich’s Buttermarket Center turns 30, the whole town center feels like it’s shifting from shopping malls to new uses.
Earlier this week it was revealed that there are plans to turn the upper floors of the Sailmakers Center into apartments – finding a new use for retail and restaurant spaces that have been empty for years.
And while the future use of the Debenhams building on Cornhill is still unclear, one thing is certain: it will never again be a flagship department store.
When what is now Sailmakers opened as Tower Ramparts in 1986, the second floor was an attractive restaurant/café for shoppers with a self-service counter on one side and waiter service on the other .
It was popular and the view of the center from the top was a major attraction.
A few months later, Littlewoods opened and again had a cafe on the second floor overlooking the bus station and the Crown Pools.
But these have been closed for years – and when Tower Ramparts was converted to Sailmakers there was no sign of access to the second floor units.
Now they seem likely to become new homes.
There’s a similar story to the Buttermarket which has been converted into an Empire cinema-focused leisure center – while it still has a few big stores like TK Maxx and New Look.
Ipswich Central, the Business Improvement District (BID) which represents the business interests of the area, welcomes plans for diversification, including bringing more people to live in the heart of the town.
Managing Director Sophie Alexander-Parker said: “Ipswich Central are aware that ALB Group, who recently acquired Sailmakers, are looking to convert the upper floors of the center into city center apartments.
“This is a welcome redevelopment and the type of change required to revitalize the high street as a connected city centre.
She added: “I and the rest of the team at Ipswich Central are delighted to congratulate all the staff at Buttermarket Center on its 30th anniversary.
“The Buttermarket Center has changed dramatically, with the opening of EMPIRE Cinema, Superbowl, Superdry and, more recently, Boom Battle Bar.
“The Buttermarket Center is a key entertainment destination in Ipswich and, with planned improvements to Arras Square in 2023 and the transformation of St Stephens Church into a concert hall, this area of the town center will come alive even more.”