Don't get carried away about a new shopping complex for Worcester, says council boss (From Worcester News)
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Don't get carried away about a new shopping complex for Worcester, says council boss
A DREAM of a new shopping centre for Worcester is on the rocks - after the city council's boss admitted the internet was putting retailers off.
Managing director Duncan Sharkey said he doesn't want to get people's hopes up that the likes of John Lewis are preparing to invest in the Cornmarket site off Trinity Street.
He says questions are now being asked about how much extra retail Worcester can realistically take, especially with "online taking over".
It raises the prospect of the landmark site, which has been put up for sale along with Trinity House, being a leisure destination without major stores.
Back in August last year the city council announced the entire complex was up for sale to a developer prepared to create a link between the High Street and the £75 million St Martin's Quarter off City Walls Road.
But retail units are still going unfilled in the city, including the shops surrounding Asda.
Mr Sharkey admits with more people shopping on the internet retailers are now under more pressure.
Mr Sharkey said: "That aspiration to join up the Cornmarket and Trinity House with St Martin's Gate is very much a shared one, but the question is 'how much will the market bear'.
"What we ultimately want is a viable scheme that will really add value to the area.
"There are ongoing questions about the size of the retail 'footprint' across the piece with 'online' taking over.
"So with that in mind we're doing work with the likes of the university to try and work out what the city centre might look like in the future."
Speaking during a meeting of the performance, management and budget scrutiny committee, he said he'd heard talk of the likes of "John Lewis" but wouldn't want to get hopes up that it was on the horizon.
It follows comments from Worcester's Business Improvement District (BID) that the Cornmarket complex needs to accommodate a different offer to the retail currently in the city.
Trinity House used to house the archives and archaeology department, but it moved to The Hive in 2012, leaving the site neglected.
Under the proposed new deal, a developer would be tasked with creating new attraction on the 62,000 sq ft site.
The 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.
Zeta Economics, an outside consultancy firm which was commissioned by examine Worcester's prospects last year, has already insisted the council must "aim high" with the development to make a major statement.
* What do you think? Should the site be shopping orientated, or could it become something else? Email email@example.com or call 01905 742248.
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