The government is hoping another retailer will move into the empty store left behind by Shoprite after it closed its Douglas town centre outlet.

Shoprite’s owner Isle of Man Enterprises made the shock announcement it was closing the store at Chester Street, underneath the multi-storey car park, at the end of last month. The store has already closed, with staff offered transfers to its other supermarkets.

The Chester Street site is owned by the government.

Infrastructure Minister Ray Harmer said the government was ’actively marketing the property with the intention of attracting interested parties who are seeking available retail space in the centre of Douglas’.

Mr Harmer told the House of Keys this week: ’The intention is that the site will continue to form part of the town’s retail accommodation.

’In terms of the multi-storey car park on the site, the department has no current plans to replace the much-needed parking facility and will continue to work with Douglas Council, who currently manage the car park on our behalf.’

He said it was a case of getting the ’right people’ in, adding: ’I believe there is interest.’

Announcing its decision, Isle of Man Enterprises criticised a lack of ’proactive investment’ in the Chester Street site. It raised fears of further disruption caused by major schemes planned for the town and commented on businesses that were deserting the town centre.

Mr Harmer said: ’Douglas will see a transformation over the next few years, with the promenade, with Castle Street, loads of developments, and this is part of the mix.’

Asked specifically about the criticisms of the Chester Street site, he responded: ’Chester Street has received significant investment in recent years, including interior redecoration, refurbishment, public toilets installation, new passenger lifts.

’Its ongoing regeneration work is an important part of Douglas. That whole connectivity of taking us from the Villa and cultural centre right the way through is key.’

The issue was raised on Tuesday by Rob Callister (Onchan) who warned: ’With the rent levels in Douglas at such a high level at the moment, it is about actually finding the right tenants at the right level of rent, but more importantly to get this site up and running again as soon as possible.’

Meanwhile, Mr Harmer also revealed that he hoped that all government-run car parks in the capital would, by the end of May, have pay-and-display machines that could accept payment by cards, rather than cash-only.

Source: IoMToday