An application to restore and refurbish Londonderry’s historic Austins building has been lodged with planners.
The agent behind the plans has confirmed there is now interest from a single retailer to take over the building.
Paul Durnien, Project Manager, said they planned to restore the building to its former glory, both internally and externally.
The application on behalf of the Austins Regeneration Trust Limited, is for the “refurbishment and restoration of a vacant Listed Building with proposed new rear extension to upper floors”.
The ground floor dual fronted shop front to be re-designed with tradition materials, with corrective work to façade, retaining all elements of the ornate building.
The application also proposes a change of use from fourth floor offices to retail floor space.
Austins closed its doors in March 2016 after the company operating the department store went into administration, with the loss of over 50 jobs.
The Department store, which opened in Londonderry in 1830, had been one of the oldest operating in Europe until it closed.
Mr Durnien from Durniern Surveyors, who have also said been involved in several other large scale regeneration projects in the same area, they hoped to get through the planning stage by the end of the summer.
“This will be a real catalyst for The Diamond area and a single destination retailer for that area,” he said.
“We want to restore the building’s facade back to what they were and internally reinstate the big feature staircase. We want to bring it back to its former glory.”
Work at the building is due to start as soon as approval is secured, and are expected to take between six and nine months to complete, and the building could potentially be reopened early next year.
“This would involve quite a number of jobs in construction and full and part-time jobs whenever it is in operation,” he said.
Responding to the confirmation that an application has been received, SDLP Group Leader on Derry and Strabane District Council, Martin Reilly, said: “I am glad that the beautiful façade of Austins is to be retained and hope that this new application will be a positive development for our city centre.”