A ONCE-thriving Carlisle department store could be turned into a hotel or apartments with shops, bars and cafes on its ground floor.

These are just some of the options for the empty Hoopers building, which is back on the market under a new agent after previously failing to sell.

National real estate firm Lambert Smith Hampton is inviting offers for the property, which it says is suitable for a number of different uses.

The Cumberland News understands that a hotel operator and at least one other developer has shown interest in the key city centre site.

It has no fixed guide price. The building has in the past been listed for £1.5m, though a committed developer may be able to snap it up for less.

Sitting directly opposite Carlisle Cathedral, the five-floor Castle Street building is a focal point of the city’s historic quarter and a prime site for future developments.

It was originally the family-owned Bulloughs department store, for almost 100 years, then become Hoopers in 2006. It then reopened briefly as a discount designer outlet but has now stood empty for about six years.

It comes at a time when the future of another major retail building - the House of Fraser department store on English Street - is in doubt.

Nationally the troubled firm’s owner, Mike Ashley, has warned that more store closures are on the cards - prompting new fears that the huge Carlisle building could also be left standing empty.

Carlisle MP John Stevenson is hopeful that a buyer will be found for Hoopers this time around, even if it requires a potential change of use.

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Mr Stevenson said he hoped planners would be sympathetic if a developer had a solid plan to bring the historic Hoopers building back into use and invest in the city.

He said: “It’s good to see that there’s a new agent involved who is trying to be proactive and find a buyer.

“It’s a significant landmark in Carlisle so it would be great to see it reopened.

“The planners have to be flexible in their approach.”

David Robinson, from Lambert Smith Hampton, said: “We’ve just brought it to market, as a development opportunity rather than necessarily retail.

“We have had a positive response from residential developers and hotel operators.”

He said they have had conversations with Carlisle City Council’s planning department and described it as “very supportive”.

It is likely there would be support for a hotel or residential development, potentially with cafes, shops, restaurants or bars in the ground floor units, if it would breathe new life into the landmark building.

Mr Stevenson added: “We have a changing high street and we have to allow for that.

“We’ve got to accept that the days of some of these big department stores are gone. The high street is in a period of significant change to reflect these changing shopping habits and I think planners need to reflect and respect that.”