Businessman Simon Rigby, who took over Preston Guild Hall last year, has acquired the high-rise office block, the Guild Centre.
The building, on Lords Walk between the rear of the Guild Hall and Preston Bus Station, has been acquired from Preston Tithebarn General Partner Ltd for an undisclosed sum. The property previously formed part of the now-abandoned Tithebarn regeneration plans and includes the empty site of a former Morrisons supermarket.
Preston City Council will remain owners of the property’s ground rent, and the acquisition, supported by legal advice from David Hill at Napthens solicitors, is intended to allow Mr Rigby’s Villa Group to continue to enhance the offering of the nearby Guild Hall to its users.
David Hill, Commercial Property partner, said: “Through this acquisition, Simon and The Villa Group are perfectly placed to continue their regeneration of Preston city centre’s leisure offering and I look forward to watching as the area is brought back to life.”
Preston’s Frank Whittle Partnership (FWP) has been advising Mr Rigby on future uses and possibilities for his company’s acquisitions, including the Guild Hall itself and now the Guild Centre. The architecture and design practice team, led by architect Seb Salisbury, is revitalising the entertainment complex and will be central to new plans to bring the office block into public use.
Part of the property continues to be let to government departments, and The Villa Group intends to bring the former Morrisons site back into use.
Simon Rigby said: “I believe this acquisition is the next step in making Preston Guild Hall an oasis of arts and leisure in the heart of Lancashire.
“The access from the bus station and its associated car park has for many years been an issue for visitors to the Guild Hall.
“This acquisition means we now share ownership of the access with Lancashire County Council, through the authority’s ownership of the Bus Station.
“The Villa Group will work with the county council to make this access much more attractive which will help the Guild Hall and also relieve pressure on the temporary access across the bus station and Tithebarn Street, and both will benefit from the planned developments to the bus station area.
“As Preston City Council remain the owners of the ground rent they are working in partnership with us to ensure the Guild Hall offering to the people of Lancashire is further enhanced.
“The former Morrisons supermarket has been a blot on the landscape for some time, and we hope to bring this back into use shortly. We are looking at a number of leisure options for the site and hope to make an announcement in the near future.”
Seb Salisbury, lead project architect from FWP, said: “There are a number of potential entertainment and leisure uses for the Guild Centre and we will be working on plans for future consideration.
“It has been great to work on far-reaching plans for the continued regeneration of Preston and helping build a vision that will bring the Preston public, and visitors from further afield, back into the city centre and to help drive the night-time economy.
“Our current work revitalising the Guild Hall is already starting to make a difference to the complex and to Preston.”
The Villa Group was also advised on the acquisition by Roger Parker & Co Commercial Agents.