A MAGNIFICENT £60million shopping and leisure development is on the way to Gloucester – transforming the city.
Eleven restaurants, a 10-screen 1,600 seat cinema, a revamped and expanded Quays and new shops are all on the way, creating 550 new jobs.
A new leisure quarter, called The Quayside, promises to rapidly improve the city's historic Docks and catapult Gloucester forward as a shopping and food destination.
The existing Cineworld cinema at the Peel Centre would close, with the building itself being either demolished and rebuilt, or extended and revamped so it can provide 55,000 sq ft of retail space for new shops.
A new, modern 10-screen facility would then be built above an existing collection of units in High Orchard Street.
And 11 new restaurants would be built adjacent to the new cinema complex, effectively known as phase two of Gloucester Quays Designer Outlet.
The huge development, which is being pioneered by developers The Peel Group, the creators of the outlet, has been described as "tremendous news" for the city.
Peel hopes to start work on it early next year, with the opening scheduled for the autumn or winter of 2013.
Jason Pullen, managing director of Gloucester Quays Designer Outlet, said: "The changing economic times and markets have seen the scheme evolve and the latest phase of development would see the creation of a new leisure quarter for Gloucester.
"To invest a further £60million of privately funded money is a sign that we believe in the future of Gloucester.
"The city is not yet known for its night time dining and leisure attractions but with the development of The Quayside this would truly rival other destinations, and give the people of Gloucester an alternative with a great range of restaurants and entertainment."
The investment was decided upon after the company's chairman John Whittaker, a billionaire, flew over the city in a helicopter from the Isle of Man.
He said: "I believe the proposed cinema and associated restaurants will greatly enhance the choice for Gloucester residents and visitors."
Under the plans, there will be a ground floor foyer entrance opposite the existing Pizza Express and Nando's restaurants in Merchants Road to access the cinema.
A licensed bar, fast food outlets and a ticketing section will then greet film goers, with stairs and a lift leading to the facility upstairs.
Peel held discussions with a number of operators and Cineworld is set to be the company to run it.
Talks are also ongoing with restaurant operators about taking up the 11 new retail units adjacent to it, with the developers promising everything from "fine dining" to budget eateries.
There would be indoor and outdoor seating, creating a continental cafe style culture.
Unused space in and around Merchants Road would be filled in to cater for the eateries.
The old cinema building would also be available for new shops.
It has lasted 20 years, having opened up in 1991 as part of the £20 million Peel Centre development, but only has six screens.
Initial reaction to the project was very good – with Gloucester City Council backing it all the way.
Councillor Paul James, the leader, said: "This really is great news, I think it shows a huge amount of belief and determination Peel has in Gloucester.
"The Quays was opened in difficult economic times, some people's reaction to that might be to retreat, but this response is impressive."
Barry Leach, from Gloucester City Centre Community Partnership, said: "This is dramatic stuff, it is a very exciting change in the strategy for the Quays.
"It is great to see plans in the pipeline other than retail, in terms of the cinema and the restaurants.
"We are talking about a lot of jobs too."
The city's MP has also lauded the project.
Richard Graham said: "I think it's terrific news, the idea that a new cinema and restaurants will act as a catalyst is logical and will be welcomed by everyone."
The Peel Group, in conjunction with British Waterways, has already pumped more than £200 million into the city by opening up Gloucester Quays Designer Outlet in 2009.
To garner support for the scheme, it is staging exhibitions inside the outlet tomorrow and Thursday.
There will be drawings and images on display, and the chance to provide feedback.
Tomorrow, the exhibition will be at Eastgate Mall from 10am-5pm and Cineworld at the Peel Centre between 6-8pm.
On Thursday, it will be near the customer services desk at Gloucester Quays Designer Outlet from 10am-6pm.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT:
FOLLOWING the feedback from the exhibitions, Peel will formally submit a planning application to Gloucester City Council early next month.
It would need the approval of the city council’s planning committee before any work starts.
The committee meets monthly, and could consider the application around December time, or early next year.
Under Government-led guidelines, local authorities aim to decide upon applications within four months of it being submitted.
Work could then start as soon as approval is granted, with The Quayside leisure quarter, including the new cinema and restaurants, up and running in the autumn/winter of 2013.
A grand opening ceremony is expected to take place to signify it.
The demolition or revamp of the old cinema site, complete with extended floor space, would be complete by the summer of 2014.
The 55,000 sq ft of floor space would be rented out to several shops.
In terms of the rest of the Peel Centre, the remaining retail units will also be spruced up to give the entire complex a lift.