Visitors to Armagh could be seeing double in the future – with plans to develop four new shops to replace empty units in the Barrack Street area of the city.
Hopes are high that two long vacant shop units at Barrack Street could be given a new lease of life.
Both are currently hidden away from public view behind fake shop fronts.
But now there are moves to alter and restore the properties as retail units.
And, not just that, but the developer hopes to create further shop units to the rear, which open out on to Little Barrack Street.
The proposals are due to be publicly advertised this week.
It is in keeping with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council’s goal of rejuvenating Little Barrack Street and opening it up more to the public to draw people in.
Currently there are public realm works ongoing there as part of an extension of the multi-million pound city centre scheme. As well as new paving on the way, seating, lighting and planting could form part of that scheme and future works.
And these latest private sector proposals would add to the good fortunes of the area – not just lifting the retail offering on Barrack Street but on Little Barrack Street too.
The proposals refer to the properties at Nos 6 and 10 Barrack Street, which sit either side of the Edelweiss European food market.
One was a former book store, the other a bakery.
Both were marketed for sale by Frazer Kidd in Belfast.
Planning approval was granted for a hot food takeaway at no 6, the former Armagh Books store, and it was recently sold. No 10 Barrack Street was sold last year.
The same company – FD Gordon Developments Ltd, with a registered address in Portstewart – has lodged plans for both.
And that would see each transformed – front and rear – creating shop units on both Barrack Street and Little Barrack Street, separated by enclosed and covered yards.
At no 6, the property consists of a shop unit, apartment and garage over three storeys.
The applicant is seeking approval for alterations which would see the restoration of the existing shop unit, with the apartment given over to a change of use for retail purposes and associated storage.
Approval is also sought for a change of use for the garage at the rear to be converted into a shop – with an associated extension to provide a kitchenette, toilet and store.
Because of the difference in height at both street levels, the shop unit on Little Barrack Street would actually be level with the basement of the shop fronting Barrack Street.
Overall, the size of retail space available would more than quadruple if the proposal is approved.
There are similar plans in place at neighbouring number 10.
Again, the existing shop unit – long empty and hidden behind a fake front – would be altered and restored.
And approval is also sought to allow for a change of use from living accommodation on the first and second floor for retail purposes and storage and a new shop front erected.
A shed at the rear – on Little Barrack Street – would be demolished.
And at the rear there would be a change of use sought and extension which would see a new and separate shop unit being built.
The Barrack and Little Barrack Street outlets would be separated by a covered courtyard.
In all, the changes would see retail floor space increase from 14 sq metres currently to over 100 sq metres.
It is not known at this stage if the developments have been proposed with intended tenants in mind.
But the plans would represent a significant investment.
They would also give a much-needed facelift to Little Barrack Street – an area long overlooked – and improve the overall appearance and offering on Barrack Street too, one of Armagh’s oldest streets which, like much of the city, has suffered from high vacancy levels over recent years.
The proposals are now with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for consideration and a decision is expected in the coming months.