HOUSE of Fraser is coming to Chester, as exclusively revealed by The Chronicle.
The retailer has signed the long-awaited contract to operate a 160,000sq ft department store as part of the £283m Northgate Development which will regenerate Chester city centre.
Everyone connected with the project will be breathing a sigh of relief that the contract is signed and sealed because without a major retailer at the heart of the scheme it would have been a dead duck.
Steve Hibbert, operations director of House of Fraser, said: 'We are pleased to have secured such a significant unit in one of the most exciting retail-led mixed-use schemes planned for the UK.
'Northgate will provide the flexible shop area we need and which was not previously available in Chester's historic shopping area.'
Siep Hoeksma, joint managing director of ING Real Estate Development UK, which is funding the project, said: 'We are truly delighted to have attracted one of the top retail names to the city for the first time.'
'This important step forward sends a message to local people that we are committed to making Northgate a reality.'
House of Fraser has taken a 35-year lease on the anchor unit located to the north-west of the scheme, which includes 440,000sq ft of retail space.
The project has been designed to regenerate an area occupied by The Forum and behind the town hall which is not believed to be fulfilling its potential.
The mall will be replaced with the department store and 60 units within shopping streets featuring a modern interpretation of The Rows, including three major store units. Above the shops will be 112 residential apartments.
There will be a new bus station and multi-storey car park, new market hall, new library and a performing arts centre within a public square fronted by caf s and restaurants.
In a joint statement, Chester City Council leader David Evans and deputy leader John Price said: 'This is great news.
'The House of Fraser name and the new retail provision will complement and enhance the existing shops in the city, making the city centre much more attractive for shoppers across the region.'
A theme of the development is the open-style streetscape will be reintroduced based on the street pattern lost 30 years ago. It was a conscious decision not to turn Chester into a giant closed shopping mall.
The architects say the new quarter will integrate with the city's historic townscape.
The town hall will remain untouched at the heart of the development, along with all other buildings of architectural and historical importance.