Plan to move the casino in multi-million pound development

By Gemma Nettle   |   Reporter   |
Saturday 6th August 2022 6:17 am
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An island-based company this week announced multi-million pound plans to redevelop a big site in the heart of Douglas.

Subject to obtaining planning approvals, property company Altostratus Limited has agreed to acquire the one-acre Middlemarch site, which is currently being used as a car park.

The site borders Walpole Avenue, Fort Street and Lord Street and includes the former police station.

It will begin work on a development that includes offices, a 250-space multi-storey car park and a three-storey leisure and entertainment complex incorporating a casino.

Project manager for ADG Architects John Bell said: ‘The proposed development at Middlemarch will be one of the biggest commercial schemes seen in the town centre for several decades and will help link the growing leisure offering on the North Quay with the well-established shopping and business districts in lower Douglas.

‘Subject to obtaining the necessary approvals to move their casino licence, Palace Hotel & Casino Limited will be an anchor tenant for the development, with two of the three floors in the leisure complex earmarked for their casino, conference, and entertainment offering.

‘Altostratus is working closely with the Manx Development Corporation (MDC) to ensure that the scheme fits well with MDC’s wider aspirations for the lower Douglas area.

‘Further discussions will take place with MDC over the coming weeks ahead of the formal planning application being lodged later this year.’

In 2018, Auldyn Properties Ltd, a shareholder of the Sefton Group, bought the site in the town centre, which the hotel firm had previously sold to the government.

The site was sold for £3.96 million to Middlemarch Ltd, a subsidiary of Auldyn Properties.

The group said it would be constructing a multi-storey car park and a new casino there.

This purchase from the government came after Allan Bell’s administration bought the site for £3.2m in 2013 as part of a controversial £1.3 million bail-out of the Sefton Group.

The then-Chief Minister said that allowing the Sefton Group to go under could have sent the Manx economy into a ‘tail spin’ and insisted the lease of the site and the loan were both justified given the scale of the group’s role in the economy.

Paul Jakuc, who has led the work on the initial design, said: ‘Everyone at ADG is delighted to be involved in the proposed Middlemarch development.

‘We have designed and managed a number of major schemes in the UK, but this is our first involvement with the Isle of Man, and we couldn’t ask for a better introduction.

‘We are aware that town centre rejuvenation is a high priority for the Isle of Man Government, and we’re proud and excited to play our part in a project that could well be a catalyst for wider redevelopment in due course.’

The site is across the road from one that promises a cinema, a 198-space car park and restaurants on the old bus station site in Lord Street.

We contacted developer Conor Bradley, the commercial director of Kane Ltd, last week and he said that there would be news soon about an alteration in plans.

However, we have since been unable to contact him for more details.

There have been a number of different proposals for the site in the 25 years since the bus station was demolished.

But the site so far remains undeveloped.

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