£1million spent to transform Southend High Street shop into ‘slice of Oxford Street’

Arras Ali, who owns eight barbershops across Southend, is fulfilling his dream of bringing “luxury to the high street” by transforming the former shop into nine apartments with three shops on the ground floor.

Echo: The stairs insideThe stairs inside (Image: Gaz de Vere)

Mr Ali, 38, has invested more than £1 million into the building and hopes to see the shops picked up by designer brands, such as Zara, to make the high street a “trendy and desirable place to visit”.

Miss Selfridge closed in the 2019 and has been boarded up ever since.

Echo: The kitchenThe kitchen (Image: Gaz de Vere)
The building dates back to 1930 and in is a prominent spot in the High Street and sits in between Game and Bonmarche.

Mr Ali said: “I want to get a company like Zara in there, we need a retailer like that in the city because people are going to lakeside and Bluewater instead to shop.

“We need a huge brand, we lack them, we have JD and TKmaxx but there are only a few.

“The plan for this was a little more ‘slice of Oxford Street’, a slice of the big city on the high street, my plan is to get more involved with the high street to provoke change.

“I want to get more into properties and franchising, doing up this place has cost over a million.”

Echo: The bathroom in one of the luxury apartmentsThe bathroom in one of the luxury apartments (Image: Gaz de Vere)
Mr Ali started his business empire at just 16 when he moved to Southend.

The flats include two, two-bed homes and seven one-bed flats and Mr Ali is hoping they will go to “people who are entrepreneurial” and can benefit from being in the city centre.

Echo: Inside one of the spacious flatsInside one of the spacious flats (Image: Gaz de Vere)

The modern and upmarket flats are almost complete ahead of hitting the market.

Mr Ali added: “When I got in, it was in a very bad condition, there were dead birds inside and it looked like it had been abandoned for years, it had no electricity.

“It is very pretty now and there are very high-quality flats, all the bathrooms have underfloor heating and the two top flats have a nice, big sea view balcony.

“The one thing I am really happy with is the rental basement, which used to cut through the middle of the building was saved, its quite big and could be an office for meetings or maybe a printing company.

“Maybe even a Turkish barber.”

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