Miller Arcade Preston: What is its history? Which businesses are there? And what does its future hold?

The 19th century building was first built by a successful dentist who was inspired by the steel structures being built in New York in the late 1800s.

The Miller Arcade has had a colourful life - once home to a 20-bed hotel with spa, a plethora of independent shops, cafes and restaurants and even a Turkish baths.

Built in a similar way to New York skyscrapers, the design was actually inspired by the famous Burlington Arcade in London and has entrances off Lancaster Road, Church Street, Birley Street and Jacson Street.

It became Grade II listed in 1979 but in the current day and age, the top three floors of the Victorian building sit empty and derelict with only a small selection of shops and restaurants filling the ground floor plots.

The Miller Arcade in Preston was first built in 1899

The Lancashire Post has been investigating what shoppers and council chiefs would like to see brought into use at the venue in order to restore it to its former glory. Read that story here.

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Council and business chiefs have recognised that the period building is becoming increasingly popular with food and drink venues, following the recent successful launch of the Rise Brunch cafe.

Suggestions have been made for the Victorian site to be converted into a food court, boutique shopping centre or live music venue.

The Arcade was once a popular shopping centre, home to a hotel, Turkish Baths, a pub and various other businesses

But the news comes as the Olive Tree restaurant last week announced its sudden closure, less than a year after the French Connection clothing store closed its doors at the site.

The History of the Miller Arcade:

Aidan Turner-Bishop, the former Chairman of Preston & South Ribble Civic Trust and now a committee member for the Preston Historial Society said the building was once 'busy and thriving'.

He told the Post: "The Miller Arcade was first developed by Nathanial Miller, a successful dentist who had invested in property from the money he made from dental surgery. Interestingly, he had visited New York and had been amazed by the way they constructed buildings.

A postcard from the early 1900s shows the Arcade in its former glory with the old tram beside it

"When he came back, he used a steel structure to build it very similarly to New York skyscrapers and then built around the steel structure, with deep foundations that go down as far as 30 feet.

"It took over the old market square, which at the time was very run down and thought of as quite a dump, so really helped to improve the area at the time.

"There was so much going on here at one time. There was a Turkish baths and people used to come from far and wide to visit.

"It had shops, offices and a 20 bedroom hotel as well as a dance hall, the Kings Arms pub and the Crown Hotel all from the same building.

Empty shops at the Church Street building is now a common site, as the two floors above sit empty and derelict

"The Turkish bath and massage centre was popular in the first decades of the last century similar to modern spas today. That in the Miller Arcade opened in 1901 and closed in 1947, with the entrance now made into a window, but the sign above can still be seen."

The Arcade was then taken over as offices and in 1946 was acquired by the Arndale Property Group that renamed it as Arndale House until 1972.

Since then it has been through several developers and 'struggled significantly' in the new century, according to Aidan.

He added: "At one time it was a hub full of people and quite up and coming. It was busy and thriving and had lots to offer. So many people will have fond memories of it.

"At one time it was going to be developed into some apartments but in the '90s it was decided against, as that area of Church Street had a bad reputation for drink and drugs and people would not have wanted to have lived there.

"There was even a tobacconist in the middle of the Arcade which people often used to meet up with their boyfriends or girlfriends, people used is as shelter when they were waiting for a bus and Preston's first tram first set off from right outside the doors.

The inside of the Miller Arcade

"Nowadays, with people moving back into the centre, it would work as apartments or a boutique hotel."

What businesses are there left now?:

An application to convert the top floors into 45 studio apartments and a restaurant at the first-floor level was passed by the city council in 2015, but these plans never came to fruition, as it sits empty and unused.

It is understood that the owners of the building are The Bux family of Calloway Estates Ltd, registered to the British Virgin Islands.

The 1800s building is home to Iceberg Burgers since 2017, Smashed nightclub, Baluga Bar, Rohan clothing, Roni's barbers and more recently the Rise Brunch cafe, and will soon welcome premium dessert chain Haute Dolci.

Councillor David Borrow, Cabinet Member for Planning and Regulation at Preston City Council, said: “The Miller Arcade is an iconic building in the city centre and a prime example of the varied and beautiful architecture that tells the story of our city centre.

“As a Grade II listed building any alterations must be done sensitively and in keeping with the original design, but we are keen that the arcade and its upper levels are maintained to a high standard and fully occupied with a range of uses compatible with its listed status.

“We are ambitious in our plans to develop the city centre following the pandemic which has unfortunately seen a number of businesses and big names leave high streets around the country.

"It is important that we look at new ways to use buildings like this such as social enterprises or community hubs so that our high street continues to play a key role in the city’s future.”

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