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Ambitious plans for new Worcester shopping and leisure complex
A MULTI-MILLION pound revamp of Worcester city centre is on the cards - with a whole new shopping and leisure area on the way.
It is hoped the likes of John Lewis, Gap and Zara could be tempted to come to Worcester in an ambitious bid to catapult the city up the retail league table.
Worcester City and Worcestershire County Councils have united to put the Cornmarket car park and Trinity House, the former Co-Op in Trinity Street and Queen Street, up for sale to a major developer.
The aim is to sell the land to a bidder prepared to create an entirely new shopping area - providing a key link between the High Street and the £75m St Martin’s Quarter complex.
The city council owns the 85-space Cornmarket car park, while Worcestershire County Council owns Trinity House, which has been largely mothballed in recent months.
Trinity House used to house the archives and archaeology department, but it moved to The Hive last year, leaving the site neglected.
Under the proposed new deal, a developer would be tasked with creating a shopping complex on the 62,000 sq ft site, with both councils making millions from a joint sale.
Your Worcester News can reveal how a development brief will be published in September, outlining the terms for a sale.
Any buyer would have to guarantee at least one ground floor of retail or leisure, meaning they would have the option of creating several more floors above it of whatever they like, subject to planning approval.
The news has been described as “wonderful” for Worcester, with both councils urged to go for high-end retail.
There are hopes it will transform Worcester’s shopping reputation, and tempt in more people from across the region who tend to opt for Cheltenham, Birmingham or Merry Hill.
Councillor Geoff Williams, city council deputy leader and the cabinet member for economic prosperity, said: “This is an ambitious approach to deal with the pressing need for closer links between the High Street, and the newer retail and leisure facilities at St Martin’s Quarter.
“The whole of Worcester’s economy will benefit from this bold approach, as it will bring in more visitors to shop and spend time in our city.”
Worcester MP Robin Walker said: “A lot would depend on who could be found to take the site over - if we can get a John Lewis in, for example, that would be really great.
“This is welcome news because the idea of getting that part of the city working better will boost everyone - there’s a lot of sense in it.”
WHAT THE TRADERS SAY
RETAILERS in Worcester say they are fully behind the idea of a bigger, better city centre – but have urged council chiefs to aim for the best.
Traders say they want to see the area improved, but are calling for “high end” retailers to invest in it.
Keith Marshall-Walker, who runs the Paint Box, an art and memorabilia shop in Mealcheapen Street, said: “There’s no doubt the area is a bit neglected at the moment, it’s not really doing anything.
“Worcester has a lot of bargain stores and if we can use this to get the likes of John Lewis, a bigger Debenhams, Gap, and stores of that kind of ilk in, then great.
“Let’s use this to bring some quality customers to Worcester – they should aim for that.”
Anja Potze, who runs Anja Potze Fine Jewellery in Friar Street, said: “High-end retail would do us a lot of good.
“We could do with a Zara, Gap or John Lewis – that would certainly bring more people in to the city.
“I’ve heard Friar Street called the ‘hidden quarter’ of independent retailers, I honestly don’t know what good it will do us, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Andrew Hutson, assistant manager at DW Sports Store in the High Street, said: “They need to get the right kind of shops in, that’s the key thing.
“New retail is all very well but it’s the high-end stuff Worcester needs, if we can get that it will provide a knock-on effect for all of us.”
The sale is expected to provide a major boost to the finances of both city and county councils – particularly for County Hall.
Councillor John Campion, county council cabinet member for transformation, said it would provide cash which could be “reinvested into essential front line services.”
WORCESTER: A CHANGING CITY
THE development is one of a number of major changes to Worcester city centre – all happening close to each other.
It follows on from the £75 million St Martin’s Quarter shopping complex in Lowesmoor, which is anchored by the new Asda superstore.
The 26-unit 284,000 sq ft site is being marketed enthusiastically by owners Carillion Richardson and has 502 parking spaces.
Costa Coffee, Ladbrokes, health chain Fit4Free and bargain hardware store B&M are among those to open up outlets so far, with more on the way.
As well as that, a planning application has been submitted for a £100 million revamp of the Sherriff Street area which includes 650 new homes, a cinema, hotel, bowling alley, gym, 80-bed care village, restaurants, 1,000 car parking spaces and offices.
The scheme, called Sherriff’s Gate, will sit on 900,000sq-ft of land behind Shrub Hill train station and is the single biggest regeneration scheme Worcester has ever seen.
It is expected to come before the planning committee for a decision by the end of the year, with a completion target of 2017.
Third, the old Royal Worcester Porcelain works behind Severn Street is being earmarked for a £10 million cultural quarter.
City philanthropist Colin Kinnear says his idea is modelled on Paris’s Left Bank, including an open theatre, bistros, cafes, shops and an exhibition space for artists.
The bid is also subject to planning approval, but an opening date of May 2015 is in the pipeline.
A £700,000 revamp of Worcester High Street is due next month, with the stretch from the Elgar Statue to Pump Street due to be relaid.
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