Principality Building Society has been unveiled as the first of two retail tenants at Alban House, the fire-damaged development in High Town, Hereford, which was restored by Birmingham-based Elevate Property Group.

The society is moving its Hereford branch from 2 St Peters Square to 16-18 High Town with shopfitters moving in during August for an Autumn opening.

Alban House was restored by Elevate after the property was gutted by fire in 2010, and it now provides 18 residential properties including a courtyard cottage and rooftop penthouses. It also has two retail units on the ground floor fronting on to the busy High Town shopping area.

The first has been taken by the Principality Building Society which was first established in 1860 and is the UK’s sixth largest building society. Founded in Cardiff it now has over 70 outlets via a network of branches and agencies across Wales and into the neighbouring English counties.

Julian Owens, senior partner of Hereford sales and letting agents Arkwright Owens, said: “We are delighted to have secured such a prestigious tenant for Alban House and are hopeful of securing a tenant for the second unit as lockdown eases and shoppers return to High Town.”

The rebuilding and renovation of Alban House, which is now 75 per cent sold with only four units remaining, was undertaken by Hereford building contract C J Bayliss some eight years after the original fire brought the city to a standstill with over 100 firefighters battling through the night to save the site and stop the blaze spreading to neighbouring buildings.

The site had remained derelict and unloved until Elevate Property Group, an independent housebuilder stepped in and bought the site with its Grade II façade in early 2017.

But the developers faced a series of hurdles to overcome, not least a long saga over power provision to the site after an electricity sub-station had been destroyed in the original 2010 blaze.

Then Saxon ramparts dating back to the late 9th century were discovered within the foundations, requiring careful archaeological assessment and chronicling by county experts.

And, in order to protect the site and their investment, Elevate bought the neighbouring pub The Booth Hall, which dates back to 1392 and became a public house in the 15th century.

Work on the residential units was completed in late 2019, and the first new occupants moved into Alban House in late January and early February 2020.

David Hofton, sales and marketing director of Elevate Property Group, said: “We are delighted to have secured such a prestigious tenant as Principality Building Society for our first retail unit and we are seeing increased interest in the second unit now that High Town is becoming increasingly busy with shops, pubs and restaurants reopening.

“High Town is Hereford’s main thoroughfare and we are delighted to have played a major role in restoring Alban House and bringing this property back into gainful use.”

“Alban House has been a labour of love for us. As responsible developers, we are very conscious of the heritage of the cathedral city of Hereford and we wanted to ensure that we respect the history of the site, while ultimately bringing to the market much needed accommodation in this popular part of the city.”

“At times it seemed as if this site was determined not to be redeveloped but we have been buoyed up by the support of residents and the council who were keen for us to make progress.

“We were particularly pleased to be able to award the contract for the redevelopment of this complex site to a local contractor in C J Bayliss and they have produced an outstanding result,” he said.

The project was overseen by development managers BACE Construction Consultants.

Elevate Property Group has developments across the country, including at Princes Gate in Solihull.