The contractor is carrying out enabling works on the first phase of Cheshire West & Chester Council’s £70m mixed-use scheme more than 20 years after redevelopment of the area was first mooted, and hopes to continue despite the virus outbreak.
The first phase of Northgate, which is scheduled to complete by the end of 2021, will include a new market and food hall, six-screen Picturehouse cinema, cafes, bars and restaurants, a co-working space, public square and multi-storey car park.
The regeneration of Chester city centre has been more than two decades in the making with numerous iterations of various schemes falling by the wayside over the years.
Towards the end of the 20th century, Scottish Widows pension fund overhauled the Forum Shopping Centre, which it owned, and announced its intention to build a 100,000 sq ft department store close to the site but work never started.
Scottish Widows sold the Forum to Dutch bank ING just before 2000 with the new owners also keen to regenerate the site.
ING then won planning approval for a project that would have seen the construction of a performing arts centre and 112 residential units in 2005, but, after six years without any progress, the council intervened and bought the site.
Outline approval for the current scheme was granted in 2016 with designs drawn up by ACME, but in late 2018, Place North West revealed that the architect would be replaced by AHR.
Fresh proposals were revealed in March 2019 before the green light for the first phase was finally given in September, clearing the way for Vinci Construction to make a start on site.
The professional team includes Planit-IE; Curtins; Avison Young; Hoare Lea; Rivington Land; Gardiner & Theobald; Aecom; Vectos; WMC; Town Centre Parking, and Fraser Blair Associates.
A public drop-in session, designed to provide the community and other stakeholders with information on the impact the construction work might have on them and the local area, was scheduled to take place next Wednesday but has been cancelled in light of the ongoing public health emergency.
Cllr Richard Beacham, cabinet member for housing, regeneration and growth, said: “The Northgate project has been in development for many years, with several different versions being brought forward in this time.
“While this next year or so will include periods of disruption for residents as construction progresses, we hope people will enjoy the benefits that the scheme brings to the city far into the future.”