Yesterday morning l awoke as usual to Radio 4 and a particular news item caught my ear, that is, since falling into administration in November 2008, two fifths of Woolies stores still lie empty, and the remaining bulk have been taken up by pound stores.
Now, the Woolies store near me on the Edgware Road (which was incidentally excellent for last minute xmas shopping, and yes I did actually shop there!) was almost immediately snapped up by Waitrose for a tidy sum (we hear), however, the thing that concerns me more is the empty Woolies Headquarter building on the Marylebone Rd. It’s a local landmark, and if it hasn’t attracted any takers as office space, then perhaps, whoever is marketing these stores, should approach local planners about the potential for a change of use, maybe into a hotel or even an embassy?
The location has many excellent travel connections, with Marylebone station located just behind, Edgware Road tube station nearby, and a short walk away from Baker Street. Not to mention the tide of buses and cabs along the Marylebone road. I’ve no doubt, therefore, that the transport infrastructure could cope with those new demands without a detrimental effect on the lives of local residents. More importantly, however, for both local residents and the local economy, it’s not healthy for such a large iconic building to lie empty in the neighbourhood. Build wise, l suspect that a change of use into a hotel would be relatively easy, but for me a foreign embassy or several of them would be ideal. Takers would not only benefit from a fantastic, central and vibrant location, it would also be a welcome and imaginative addition to the local area.