Designers are hoping a £10million plan to transform the former Joplings department store into a hotel will still check out.
A planning application was approved at the start of this year to turn the building in John Street into a 122-bedroom hotel on its first, second and third floors, with shop units on the ground floor.
Now it has emerged that the work has failed to begin after the purchase of the building failed to go through when a better offer was put in.
Sanguine Hospitality Limited, the firm behind the designs, says its investor was trumped by the higher bid, but is making efforts to work with the second investor in the hope its work will still pay off and the hotel scheme will go ahead.
Holiday Express is said to still be interested in adding the site to its portfolio of franchised hotels.
Graham Phillips, Sanguine’s development director, said: “We got through the planning consent, but just didn’t get that final possession of the building through the investors because another party involved put in a higher bid.
We got through the planning consent, but just didn’t get that final possession of the building through the investors because another party involved put in a higher bid.Graham Phillips, Sanguine’s development director
“However, that other party has still not completed the sale yet.
“The company that did outbid us is still looking to put a hotel there and we have asked if Sanguine project manage it. “When we’ve considered it again, we think the occupation levels would be lower than we first envisaged, but it still stacks up for the site.
“The retail space is what really closes the deal and we had started to ask for retail interest in the area.”
The city’s Conservative councillors had asked Sunderland City Council for any information the Labour-led authority has about the development, with Councillor Michael Dixon stating there had been “some optimism” that new life would be breathed into the building.
Cabinet secretary Mel Speding told a meeting of the council: “The Joplings site is privately owned, so the best information that we have is that there is obviously approval of an application for a hotel.
“We’re currently trying to discuss with the owners what is happening going forward.
“We will continue to lobby them for the benefit of the people of Sunderland.”
Joplings has lain empty since 2010, when the shop closed as the parent firm of Joplings went into administration.
Hilton’s previous plan to turn it into a hotel failing to come to fruition, with the firm since launching a Hilton Garden Inn branch at the Stadium of Light.