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Developers criticised for failing to maintain historic Manchester Debenhams building

Tom Shearsmith
09 January 2023

German real estate investment firm AM Alpha is facing criticism over the state of the former home of Debenhams in Manchester city centre.

The store, often called the Rylands building, closed in May 2021 and has been a regular target for vandals, with several smashed windows and a large increase in graffiti.

The building is poised for redevelopment this year, which will include a four-storey extension - taking the building's total height to 10 floors - and will include a shopping arcade, restaurants and offices, according to published plans. Work is expected to conclude in early 2025.

AM Alpha has been warned by Manchester Council that its redevelopment plans could be postponed until it improves its appearance. Leaders at the investment firm have now issued a statement citing extensive "efforts" to deal with the problem, but that it keeps "persisting".

Pat Karney, Manchester Councillor, said: "The agent will be seeking meetings with the city council's highways and planning officials. These meetings will not take place until they clean up the building.”

AM Alpha confirmed contractors should be on site within the coming weeks, adding it hopes to maintain a close relationship with the council.

Stephan Schmid, Senior Vice President of AM Alpha, told the Manchester Evening News: "Working with listed buildings is a privilege and we are saddened that vandalism has occurred regularly at Rylands since the building was vacated. We have made efforts to deal with the damages while development plans have been ongoing, but unfortunately, the problem has persisted.

"We're determined to keep an open line of communication with Manchester City Council and want to work collaboratively with them throughout the project to ensure our ambitions for the scheme align with the public interest."

FRP Advisory, the administrators of Debenhams who were appointed when the department store chain went bankrupt, reportedly made more than £7.2 million in fees since the retailer filed for insolvency.

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