Vinci has been chosen ahead of rival contractor Laing O’Rourke as preferred bidder for the £60m first phase of Chester Northgate, set to start on site next year.
The contractor has been named as preferred bidder by the council, although Cheshire West & Chester is still working on final designs for the first phase, which focusses on a new market, cinema, car parking facilities, and leisure.
The tenants already signed up to the first phase are Zizzi’s, Cosy Club, Tapas Revolution, and cinema operator Picturehouse.
Under the council’s timeline, ground works are set to begin next autumn, with construction starting in early 2020. The new market will have to complete before the existing market can be demolished.
Earlier this month, the council signed off an additional £6m to help draw up plans for the first phase, including a revised planning application. This funding will also go towards further feasibility studies, tenant negotiations, and enabling works.
The scheme first secured planning consent more than two years ago.
A pre-construction agreement will start in autumn 2019; this will see Vinci start work on the final designs and costings.
Cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure, Cllr Brian Clarke, said: “We have a clear vision for Chester Northgate that will support a lively leisure and culture offer in the city, as outlined in the One City Plan. It will support local retailers and Storyhouse and also provide much needed jobs, car parking, housing and office space in the heart of Chester.
“Chester Northgate is the largest project the city has seen in decades. Our aim is to secure Chester’s position as a visitor destination for years to come. Northgate is at the heart of our ambitions for Chester and it’s essential that we maintain the current momentum.
“The appointment of an internationally renowned company such as Vinci underlines its importance to the city and the region, and its significance in our plans to ensure Chester remains a go-to destination.”
The retail-led second phase of Northgate, formerly set to be home to a House of Fraser department store before the retailer pulled out this year, has been singled out for criticism by objectors to the scheme, led by Tim Kenney of consultant Kenneymoore and developer Guy Butler, but council bosses told Place North West this month there would be “constant reviews” into the shape and mix of the second phase as phase one is brought forward.
Instead of being primarily retail, the second phase is more likely to focus on housing, leisure, and cultural offerings, which were among the key points raised in an open letter to the council signed by around 140 property professionals earlier this year.
The professional team on the project also includes architect ACME, development manager Rivington Land, Aecom, Gardiner & Theobald, GVA, and Strutt & Parker. As of July this year, Rivington Land had been paid £1.6m for its role on the project, according to a Freedom of Information request.