SHOPPING and leisure development King’s Quarter will now be complete by Christmas 2018, it has been revealed.
The huge project has been delayed by one year and Martyn Chase, director of developers Stanhope, blames tough economic conditions.
But 2014 is a milestone year for the project as plans are drawn up for a new bus station and the wider development. Land is also being acquired from owners such as Aviva.
The 200,000 sq ft development would see the creation of 30 new stores, a new roof-top car park, a small cinema, restaurants and two new squares to replace King’s Square.
It will be set out along streets with buildings of varying architectural designs to give the impression that it has been built up over time.
The prestigious SouthGate development in Bath is being held up as a model to follow.
Mr Chase said: “Gloucester is a historic city and we are really enthusiastic about cities like that. Whatever you see happening nationally, you find that historic communities are actually doing really well. They have nice public realms and tourist visits.
“Despite the fact that retail is having a difficult time, our view is Gloucester has got huge potential. The market has been pretty difficult. The economy is booming in certain sectors but jobs are pretty difficult to get and people are cautious about spending their money.
“People are very frustrated and they want to see something happen. But rest assured until it does happen, Stanhope doesn’t see a penny out of it so it is in our interests too.
“Retailers are keen to keep their current shops running rather than take on new ones.
“There is caution in the financial market and these projects require debt funding. If it wasn’t for the 2007 crash, we would have been on site now.”
Stanhope have been publicly quiet about King’s Quarter for months as their work continues behind the scenes. That silence has led to sceptics wondering if the project will ever take off.
In January, Mr Chase made a surprise appearance at a city planning meeting to attack proposals for a Home Bargains store at the Peel Centre, run by developers Peel, who own Gloucester Quays. He argued the plan would affect Stanhope’s vision for the city centre.
City councillors laughed off the attack, with Lise Noakes (C, Barnwood) saying it was not the type of brand the city needed in King’s Quarter.
But Mr Chase insisted: “It doesn’t really matter about Home Bargains – they are only one small shop. But if you give permission, you open the doors for other shops.”
Reacting to Mr Chase’s vision, council leader Paul James said: “The economy is improving and the conditions are getting better. We do need to protect our city centre. For example, we wouldn’t want to see a Next open at the Peel Centre because that is the sort of business we want in the city centre.
“2014 is a crucial year for us. We need to get the bus station and make progress on land acquisitions and get the planning application in.”
TWO new squares would be created in the King’s Quarter development.
Plans for where they could be are developing and have changed several times.
But the current thinking suggests that a new triangular-shaped open space could be created in front of Costa.
The other half of the current King’s Square would become a row of trendy stores with a small cinema on the corner, in front of The Regal bar, Gloucester’s former cinema house.
An additional square would be created where Market Parade currently stands.
Mr Chase said that it would be wrong to create another King’s Walk or Eastgate covered shopping centre lookalike in a 2,000-year-old city.
He said: “It is not a shopping centre. They are a nice environment and there is nothing wrong with them but they don’t have a uniqueness to them that we can create with King’s Quarter. We want to create a series of city streets, squares and open spaces.”
ANCHOR STORES SOUGHT
THIRTY new high street stores including an anchor store will be the backbone of the new King’s Quarter.
Next and Superdry, the Gloucestershire clothing company, are among the big firms being eyed up by developers Stanhope.
The firm has just completed a redevelopment in Hereford where the 300,000 sq ft Old Market site boasts a Debenhams, Waitrose, H&M, Next and 30 other shops.
“The shopping centre is the only one to open in 2014 in the country,” said Mr Chase.
“We have been involved there for seven years from start to finish.”
But it won’t be just retail that will bring this ailing part of the city back to life.
Stanhope is still considering whether to introduce city centre apartments in the upper floors of the new development to get more people living in the area.
They are also looking at leisure facilities such as a small cinema and places to eat.
Mr Chase is confident that a new cinema can survive alongside the Cineworld at Gloucester Quays.
He said: “The site needs to also be about eating, drinking and playing if you like.
“We can see how successful the new Costa is already.
“We also know that the new cinema at Gloucester Quays has done well for that area, now we need to do the same for the city centre.”
They expect 25 per cent of the whole site to be leisure rather than retail.
BUILDING a bus station for the future starts now, King’s Quarter developers have said.
Gloucester City Council and Stanhope will find out in April if their bid for Government money to build a new city bus station has been successful. If it has, they will submit plans for the whole of King’s Quarter by the end of 2014.
A design for the station will need to be drawn up in 2015 and work on building it would take nine months, leaving an opening date of 2016 on the cards. The new bus station is likely to be built on what is currently Bruton Way, in front of the Land Registry offices. The road would be diverted. An innovative new bus station in Wolverhampton is being used as inspiration for the scheme.
The adjacent multi-storey car park would be demolished and a new car park would be built on the rooftops of the new development.
Developer Martyn Chase said: “A more modern approach to bus stations is to create a piazza with various bus stops rather than a platform and a huge Tarmac square for the buses. That is a bit dull and not modern.”
Gloucestershire County Council is currently reviewing bus services in and out of the city. and that process will feed into the plans for the new station to make sure it can accommodate growing demand for public transport well into the future.