By Linus Rees

Vacant shop units. A pop-up shop fills one of the empty units. Potassium Ltd have taken temporary use until the end of January 2011.

A parade of shops along Store Street remains mostly boarded up after landlord The Bedford Estates raised rents and refurbished the shop units over the past year. The Bedford Estates is however hopeful that the shops will be let over the next few months. A restaurant and offices will also be built on the former Bloomsbury Service Station and will be completed at the end of 2011.

As previously reported (Fitzrovia News, summer 2009) residents and businesses in Store Street had feared that much of the street would be empty and that the street would resemble a ghost town.

Mark de Rivaz, steward of The Bedford Estates, told Fitzrovia News “We wanted to turn around what was a tired street to look at. The previous leaseholder of 80 years, the Hill Tenants Association (named after Percy Hill), had not done much to maintain the buildings. Yet they were only paying £100 a year for each building in the parade.”

The 80-year lease on the shop and residential units expired at the end of 2009. “We took back control of all the buildings and renegotiated rents with the occupiers. The tenants were faced with paying market rents. As a result many of them left. Many of the previous businesses really couldn’t be sustained commercially.”

A previous shop tenant who left the street told Fitzrovia News that The Bedford Estates was a “greedy landlord” and doubted that the currently empty shops along the street would be let very soon.

Mr de Rivaz, however, said the Bedford Estates were confident that the empty shop units would soon be let: “The main parade of shops along Store Street will have new occupiers as well as some returning occupiers. We are currently still negotiating with possible tenants but there will likely be a new bookshop, art gallery, Sicilian delicatessen, flower shop, and restaurant. And of course, already opened is the Store Street Espresso. We want a mix of uses along the street.”

Two pop-up shops opened for the Christmas and the spring period.