One of the best-known buildings in Aberdeen city centre could soon have a new owner.

Norco House – previously the site of the John Lewis store - is now under offer, Savills has now confirmed.

But no details have been disclosed yet about who the prospective buyer is, and what its plans are for the huge George Street property.

Norco House is one of the most distinctive properties to be erected in Aberdeen since World War II.

It is said to represent the last wave of independent, stand-alone department store design in Scotland prior to the emergence of shopping centres.

The building, which is now more than 50 years old, extends to more than 200,000sqft over five floors, but it has had an uncertain future since John Lewis shut up shop in 2021.

Modernist showpiece

The property at 88 George Street dates back to 1966 when the Northern Co-operative Society's Norco building was built as a "modernist showpiece" after the original Victorian Co-op was demolished.

When John Lewis Partnership acquired the property in the late 1980s, it was described as a "golden opportunity".

For long spells, the store was very successful thanks to the strength of the local economy.

The decision to shut their only Scottish store north of the central belt resulted in the loss of 265 jobs.

The retail group said the performance of the Aberdeen branch - together with seven other sites that were earmarked for closure elsewhere in the UK - could not be "substantially improved", given consumers' growing appetite for online shopping.

The demise of the store came despite a well-supported effort locally to save it. Petitions calling for the John Lewis branch to remain open gathered tens of thousands of signatures in the campaign supported by the Press & Journal and Evening Express.

Major blow

It was a major blow for Aberdeen and followed hot-on-the-heels of other shops closing in the city, including Debenhams, Dorothy Perkins, Topshop and the Disney store.

Council co-leader Ian Yuill had suggested that the "only option" for its long-term future would be demolition.

But there remained hope it could have a new lease of life, with planners last year drawing up a range of options for the landmark structure.

Savills was instructed to seek a buyer by the John Lewis Partnership and it went on the market early last year described as a prime city centre retail/development opportunity. No potential price was mentioned publicly.

Stuart Moncur, head of national retail at Savills, said the "substantial and highly prominent building" had a "wealth of potential".

He added: "Its scale and significant profile could be considered suitable for a range of alternative uses, subject to the usual planning consents."

Value of building

One local commercial property expert told the P&J last year: "If the building can be reused, it might have a value up to £5million, depending on the condition.

"However, as a site it would probably be nearer £2million. It's hard to see what the existing building could be used for."

Since the store closure, the property has been used as a temporary vaccination centre.

It emerged a few weeks ago that Natural History Museum chiefs had ruled out the idea of turning the former John Lewis building into its Scottish site.

The London-based museum has about 80million items, but only a tiny fraction of the collection is ever on display.

However, it has confirmed it has no plans to develop a regional offering anywhere in the UK.

Important jigsaw piece

Russell Borthwick, chief executive of Aberdeen & Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said this morning: “If the sale goes through, this could be another important jigsaw piece in the plans to bring Aberdeen city centre back to life.

“Developers and investors still have confidence in the future economic strength of the area and it’s down to all of us to make sure we spend more time in town, creating the footfall that businesses need to thrive.”

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