Armagh’s former United Colors of Benetton store at Mall West is set to be transformed into a new church-led community hub.
The store is located at what is described as Unit 4, Lennox House. A next door neighbour of the O2 shop, it stands on the upper level of the Mall West car park to the rear of the old Lennox’s department store, after which the development is named.
Proposals have been drawn up for the property by the Armagh City Vineyard Church.
It is seeking a change of use from a retail use to a “sui generis church-led community hub”.
The proposals – submitted for consideration to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for consideration – also incorporate an auditorium, multi-use room and ancillary accommodation, which would include kitchen, store and toilets.
The development would also require other minor changes to the elevations, which includes the removal and replacement of the Benetton store’s signage and an advertising board.
The new church building would boast floorspace in excess of 2,600 sq ft.
According to supporting information, the development would be an expansion of the Vineyard Church’s presence in Armagh City.
It already has accommodation close by, at Scotch Street, which is used for “admin and counselling purposes”.
The statement adds: “Larger meetings, typically at weekends, take place at Armagh Cricket Club, as part of an event-based weekly rental.
“The church undertakes significant outreach and support services, mainly from the Scotch Street premises. Programmes include breakfast clubs, grief counselling services, youth services, addiction recovery, managing money, drop-in, to name but a few.
“The busiest event of the week is the Sunday morning gathering, starting at 10am and concluding before 1pm.
“The purpose of this application is to provide a permanent home and meeting place for Armagh City Vineyard and to facilitate church-related events.
“It is proposed to redevelop the former Benetton retail unit at upper deck Mall Shopping Centre.”
The statement points to adequate parking already on site and highlights that the majority of church-related activities “occur typically outside of network of peak retail times”. It says the busiest period is Sunday mornings when “nearby retail is still closed”.
The application is now with council and will be publicly advertised shortly and a decision in due course.
Neighbours – including the O2 store and Mall West Shopping Centre – are being informed of the proposals.