RADICAL plans to move Eastgate Market upstairs have been unveiled – but traders and 7,000 customers say they want it to stay put.
A vision for a light and airy market with a separate section for food, spread over 15,000 sqt ft, has been likened to markets in Sheffield – and Florence.
John Wood, asset manager from the Other Retail Group, said he was ‘passionate’ about keeping the market in The Eastgate shopping centre which his firm runs.
“The market is so important. We want to keep it here but it is dated and we would like to improve and enhance it,” he said. “It would be beautifully connected to the rest of the centre and would also be next to the car park.
“There is a nice feel to a lot of market that we have seen here in the UK and abroad. I have been to markets in Florence and other parts of the world. I love markets and I am passionate about them.
“If we crack on with it and do the work as quickly as possible we could have it for Easter next year. We have a golden opportunity to make it happen.”
If the plan is approved in April, the new market would open by Easter 2015 and the current site would then be redeveloped for retailer TK Maxx.
VIDEO: How the market could look
Traders have been promised a period of free rent and low rents thereafter in a bid to persuade them to move.
Alternative sites such as the former Marks and Spencer unit in Northgate Street, the Fleece Hotel in Westgate Street and a King’s Square unit are all looking increasingly unlikely.
Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council, said: “The options have narrowed somewhat. M&S won’t budget on their asking price, which is too expensive. King’s Walk shopping centre look to have found a tenant for their unit, and the Fleece Hotel was liked by some but others have concerns about the footfall there.
“If the market moves upstairs it will be cheaper than staying put which would require a smaller contribution from the city council, meaning we could offer a better deal on rents.
“I met with traders on Wednesday and some of them told me that they were open to the idea. They are being pretty pragmatic about it.”
Staying put would cost between £750,000 and £1million in repairs and Mr James said traders ‘recognised the difficulties in doing the repairs with them in situ’.
But Miriam Bubb, spokeswoman for the traders, said: “The plans are nice and I think there are some traders who would like to take a proper look upstairs and see it for themselves.
“Many would still like to stay on the flat though. Not everyone wants to go up an escalator.
“We are still hanging in the balance and it is very tense. We just want what is best for the future of the market for the next generation.”
A petition calling for the market to remain where it is has now mustered up the support of 7,000 shoppers.
THE PLANS - IN BRIEF
Eastgate Market would move into the upstairs area currently partly occupied by a food court. That area would be expanded to 15,000 sq ft, equivalent to the size of the current market.
The market would be given a fresh new look and there would be escalators and a lift to take people up to it.
New signage from the outside of The Eastgate shopping centre, inside the mall and from the car park would promote the market.
Traders have been told it would be too expensive to renovate the current market but they will not be forced to move upstairs if they do not want to go.
Alternative plans for the former Marks and Spencer site, the Fleece Hotel and the unit at King’s Square currently occupied by a furniture shop are close to being ruled out.
TIMELINE OF EVENTS
April 2013: Plans for a new TK Maxx in the former Marks and Spencer unit in Northgate Street are dropped.
November 2013:Plans to move the Eastgate Market upstairs emerge.
January 2014:Three alternative locations for the market emerge: the former Fleece Hotel site, the M&S site and a unit at King’s Square. A presentation is given to market traders about the plan to move upstairs.
April 2014:A decision is likely to be made on where the market will go.
Easter 2015:The new market would be up and running upstairs if that plan is approved.
Late 2015:The current market would be demolished and the site transformed into a new TK Maxx store.