Former Watt Brothers store in Glasgow set for £20m revamp

The former Watt Brothers department store in Glasgow city centre has been bought by businessmen brothers Sandy and James Easdale who are planning a £20 million revamp of the site.

Friday, 18th September 2020, 5:52 pm
A general view of Glasgow. The former Watt Brothers department story on Sauchiehall Street is being redeveloped. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
A general view of Glasgow. The former Watt Brothers department story on Sauchiehall Street is being redeveloped. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

The historic building, which is situated on the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Bath Street, has been vacant since the store fell into administration last year.

The Easdales, who own bus group McGill’s and are former Rangers directors, have now reached a deal with Watt Brothers’ administrators KPMG to save the 80,000 square foot art deco building.

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They are planning a mixed-use development with hotel and residential accommodation the most likely option.

The Sauchiehall Street site brings the value of current property and construction projects being led by the Easdales to around £400m.

Sandy Easdale said the Watt Brothers store was a “landmark building loved by generations of Glaswegians”.

He said: “It was sad to see the store close last year, but when the opportunity arose to purchase the building and redevelop it for the future, then we knew we had to take it.

“We believe the building has great potential for hotel and residential use and we’re already engaged with expert consultants to see what can be achieved. It has a proud past and we are certain it will have an even brighter future.”

The northern end of the building was initially constructed in 1914 and later extended into the southern building that fronts Bath Street, linked at second and third floors by an archway over Sauchiehall Lane.

A third building on Sauchiehall Lane was added to the ownership in the 1980s. The property has been in department store use since initial construction. The building is Category B Listed and located within the Central Area Conservation Area.

Amongst the other projects the Easdales are involved with are a £250m, 850-home housing development at a 130-acre site in Glenrothes. The development, in partnership with Advance Construction at the former Tullis Russell paper mill, will feature 850 new homes, a care home, retirement village, commercial, retail and leisure space and has already been approved by Fife Council.

They are also spearheading plans for a £100m development at the former IBM plant at Spango Valley, Greenock, which would include up to 450 new homes, alongside areas of new employment, leisure, community and retail use.

Watt Brothers filed for administration last year after more than a century in business.

The company had operated from 11 stores and had more than 300 staff.

Although the company had seen sales increase in recent years, peaking at £24m in 2018, it had faced growing competition from e-commerce and new discount retailers and had been loss-making when administrators were appointed.

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