Walsall's Old Square Shopping Centre could be bulldozed in homes plan
Walsall's Old Square Shopping Centre could be knocked down to make way for a residential development as part of a transformation of the town centre.
The West Midlands Combined Authority is in talks to purchase the shopping centre, which is viewed as key site for reviving the struggling town centre.
It is understood any deal to takeover the shopping centre, which is home to Debenhams, would be with a view to bulldozing it to create a plot of land for homes and apartments.
Officials in the region see increasing living space as a crucial part of regenerating struggling town centres.
The development would form part of a wider Walsall town centre masterplan being drawn up by the borough council, which includes revamping the train station and Park Street area.
It comes just days after Walsall was selected for up to £25m of funding as part of the Government's Towns Fund.
Council leader Mike Bird said he would welcome a deal between the combined authority and the shopping centre's owners.
He believes it remains too early in the process to say what would happen to Debenhams and other retailers based in Old Square.
He said: "Old Square is one of the options we are looking at in relation to the regeneration of the town centre along with the top end of the town and Saddlers Quays, we're looking to bring residential back into the town.
"There is no doubt retail is shrinking and we have got to look at other ways of brining in footfall. There are other parts of the town we are looking at including the Guildhall. These are historic buildings which need some TLC."
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street has previously spoken about the importance of increasing "urban living" in town centres.
In his "12-point plan to revitalise the high street" published earlier this year, he said: "Providing homes within walking distance of workplaces gives people more cash and free time to spend it.
"This could mean re-purposing surplus business premises to provide quality urban housing.
"Apply the lesson of our major cities, where urban living has tripled since 2000, to our town centres and high streets."
A spokesman for the combined authority said: “The St Matthews Quarter in Walsall is one of five town centres taking part in a pioneering project to transform local high streets.
“We are looking at a number of options in Walsall including Old Square but it is still very early days in terms of what that might entail. Potential schemes are also being assessed in Bilston, Dudley, Bordesley Green and West Bromwich (East).”