Plans have been lodged for the former Marks and Spencer menswear store in Chester city centre.
The large unit, with entrances in Foregate Street and Frodsham Street, was vacated by M&S in March 2014 when the retailer consolidated its retail offer across the road in its other store.
Now Blue Coast Commercial Investments has submitted two planning applications to Cheshire West and Chester Council that would divide the premises into three separate units.
The first application would see the unit fronting Foregate Street retained as retail but sub-divided with new customer entrances and glazing.
A second application relates to change of use planning consent for the unit fronting Frodsham Street from A1 (shops) to A2 (financial and professional services) or A3 (restaurants and cafes).
Splitting up the old M&S store would overcome the difficulty in marketing such a large unit.
There has been speculation about which retailers may be in the frame to occupy part of the building although nothing is confirmed.
River Island, which is currently based in the Grosvenor Shopping Centre, has been linked to the project according to the city rumour-mill.
Spokeswoman Holly Fulco said previously: “We are currently looking at relocating our store in Chester however we haven’t confirmed any location or signed any contracts.”
In the past the Wilkinson homeware brand, which already has an outlet in Foregate Street, has also been linked to the vacant unit. Spokesman Peter Woodall said: “I can confirm we would like larger premises here, but have no agreements in place on any particular location at present.”
Another name mentioned in gossip is John Lewis, following the success of its out-of-town store on the Greyhound Retail Park. But spokeswoman Lauren Sciberra was giving nothing away. She said: “John Lewis is often linked to new developments and available sites. However, we don’t comment on market speculation.”
Objector Andrew Pannell, of Chester Civic Trust, is concerned about the possible loss of retail in the unit fronting Frodsham Street arguing the further introduction of non-retail uses in these streets would ‘undermine the role of the primary shopping streets and adversely affect the character of the city centre’.
The applicants do not wish to comment but a supportive statement to the council reads: “The unit, having been vacant for some 10 months, does not currently contribute to the visual amenity of the area or the general vitality and viability of the city centre.”
It adds: “The proposal will ensure the units meet both retailers’ and customers’ requirements. In addition, the scheme will sensitively improve and modernise the appearance of the unit in keeping and within the character of the conservation area.”