VIDEO: Worthing’s Debenhams store: Take a walk through the old building with us as work begins to clear it out

Work has begun to clear out Worthing’s former Debenhams store with a view to it being transformed into luxury flats and retail space.

Business partners Paul Craig and Ralph Gilbert, from Shoreham and Worthing, took possession of the site in South Street in September last year.

Their property company, Craig Developments, wants to transform the old building into a high-end mix-use development of retail and luxury flats, with a rooftop area featuring a garden and a lounge that will incorporate communal working and social spaces.

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Paul, company director, said the new development will benefit the residents of Worthing hugely.

Former Debenhams store in Worthing as it is now. Pics S Robards SR2203241 SUS-220324-162202001

He added: “Our plan at the moment is build-to-rent, so we intend to keep all of the flats and the reason we want to do that is so we can keep hold of the asset long term and offer a quality rental option.

“We intend to have things like a sky lounge, allotments for growing your own on the roof, barbecuing and sunbathing areas, as well as really good bike storage, areas where you can keep and charge your scooters, so it’s a very sustainable.

“It offers more than just your average flat, it offers a bit of a lifestyle opportunity to work from home and all those sorts of things.”

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Former Debenhams store in Worthing as it is now. Pics S Robards SR2203241 SUS-220324-161831001

The Debenhams building has a long history in the town and was originally built as Hubbard’s department store in the Art Deco style, which will be featured in the new build.

When Craig Developments entered the building, it was as if people just upped and left. Paul said that he could have easily opened it up again as a department store from what had been left.

He added: “Debenhams had literally locked the doors and left. Some of the rails even had clothes still on them, some of the mannequins were still dressed and the tills were still there.

“A poignant moment I remember was the Clarins counter which was left immaculately with the velvet cover over it.

Former Debenhams store in Worthing as it is now. Pics S Robards SR2203241 SUS-220324-161951001

“All of that just made you realise that people worked here for decades and it was quite sad. We feel quite proud that we are going to save the building and bring some of the heritage back and be respectful to it, and someone’s got to save it, but it was still quite sad seeing the demise of a department store.”

Paul also had a personal reason for wanting to take on this project – his mother previously worked in the store as a shop assistant and he has fond memories of visiting her there.

An open public consultation is soon to be launched, which will allow local residents and businesses to provide input before the full planning application is submitted. People can visit the Craig Developments website to register interest in the consultation.

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Former Debenhams store in Worthing as it is now. Pics S Robards SR2203241 SUS-220324-162115001
Former Debenhams store in Worthing as it is now. Pics S Robards SR2203241 SUS-220324-162103001
Former Debenhams store in Worthing as it is now. Pics S Robards SR2203241 SUS-220324-162051001