A former Woolwich department store that lay derelict for more than 30 years is being transformed into 74 apartments aimed at young professionals and first-time buyers.

Emporium in Powis Street has been created in a 1938 Art Deco building that was once home to one of two stores owned by the Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society.

The structure fell into disrepair in the 1980s after the society merged with the organisation known today as The Co-operative Group and was earmarked for demolition.

Before work began

Laxcon Construction bought the site in 2012 and has retained the landmark facade of the Grade II listed building but inside it is being converted into 72 homes with ground-floor retail units.

A show apartment and homes on the lower floors launched on Friday, July 8.

The construction company is delivering the £11million project in partnership with New Build Sales .

Its director Peter To said: “Inside it was shambles. It had pigeons and squatters and had been stripped out and vandalised.

“But it was still such a lovely building, so instead of knocking it down we worked with Laxcon and invested in the project because we really believed in it and wanted to design something that was great.

How the finished development will look

“Emporium is four minutes walk from the underground and Woolwich has some of the best connections in London with the DLR and National Rail and Crossrail coming in 2018 and is one of the cheapest areas that is commutable to Canary Wharf and the city.

“This is a chance for people to buy a little piece of history and instead of living in a pre-fabricated, non-descript building, live in a beautiful Grade II listed one in an area that is rapidly regenerating.”

The name Emporium was chosen to reflect the building’s history and many of the original period features have been retained such as the three metre-high ceilings and decorative railings and mouldings.

The department store space has been transformed into one and two-bedroom apartments, with 14 affordable homes on the first floor, and eight penthouses have been added onto the roof.

Emporium, Tower Wick, Woolwich

Input for the design by Lawray Architects was given by University of Greenwich student Sam Walters, who Peter met and decided to employ when he came into his office researching infrastructure in Woolwich.

Sam urged the developers not to cram too many apartments into the space and to create open-plan homes with plenty of light.

His experience of struggling with leaky radiators and laminate flooring getting ruined by student parties informed the decision for Emporium to have tiles with underfloor heating in the homes.

The homes also feature modern comforts such as Nolte German kitchens with quartz worktops, Bosch applicances, carpeted bedrooms and either terraces or balconies.

The project is due for completion in October and 30% of the homes have already been sold, including all the one-bedroom apartments.

Peter said they have avoided selling to foreign investors and off plan because the homes were “so unique” and they wanted Londoners to benefit from the prices, which he said were the lowest in the area.

Two-beds range from 800-1,000sq ft and are available for £390,000- £450,000 while penthouses cost £460,000-£500,000.