A former post office is set to be brought back into use as a TGI Friday's restaurant by the end of this year.
But the transformation of the grade II listed building in Ship Street in Brighton is set to cost developers at least £750,000 just to bring the building back into working order after seven years of disuse, rain damage and squatters.
The Argus understands that the American-themed restaurant chain TGI Friday’s hope to be up and running by Christmas at the very latest.
The news comes as further plans to develop the site, which dates back to the turn of the 20th century, have been submitted to Brighton and Hove City Council.
Developers want to convert the first, second and third floors into nine studio, one, two and three-bed flats.
The current planning application lists the building as in “very poor condition” and stated that it currently sits on the council’s building ‘at risk’ register.
A decision on the flats is set to be made next month.
Plans to develop part of the first floor into a TGI Friday’s restaurant were approved in June last year.
But work has been held up by the level of damage the building has sustained along with with a number of squatting incidents.
In August last year, police and bailiffs removed 10 squatters from the former post office after they spent a fortnight in the building.
Weeks earlier, six squatters needed rescuing and decontaminating after a fire broke out in the asbestos-ridden property.
Mark Thackery, from Walsingham Planning, said: “At the moment they are just doing all the enabling work to bring the building back into a state where they can put their own mark on it.
“It will cost three quarters of a million just to get the building back into shape before they can begin the conversion.
“It is damage from the best part of eight years of no use and a lack of investment.
“Some of it is damage from squatters, some from the people who stole lead from the roof, there is quite a bit of water damage.
“The whole thing is a very slow process.
“I would think they would want to be in there for Christmas at the latest.”
Selma Montford, from conservation group Brighton Society, said: “I will be glad when the building is back in use.
“It’s sad for such a building to be left to rot.
“It’s not really suitable for a shop but I think a restaurant is a good idea for the site.”