Over 30 years since the idea was first conceived, and after numerous false starts and forced changes to plans the opening of the Northgate Development is now imminent. Comprising a new market hall (replacing the current building which opened in 1967), a car park, cinema, office space and restaurants, the development is on track to open in “late Autumn” with the council yet to reveal the exact opening date. What seemed like an impossible dream only a few years ago is now close to completion.
The New Chester Market will have 40 stalls, 35 of which are either contracted or under offer. Despite many claims, the market will NOT be a food hall with a mix of traders already announced. See https://thechesterblog.com/2022/07/13/more-traders-announced-for-new-market/
Cosy Club were the first part of the complex to open in June, will be joined by The Florist, Zizzi, Brewdog with 2 other food and beverage units to be let. The Picturehouse cinema will sit atop the market: the council are monitoring the situation given recent news about the cinema chain, however contractors remain on site for the fit out which is said to be at an advanced stage.
The market will have 400 seats effectively creating a new indoor events venue for the city. A central seating area will be surrounded by stalls, a format that worked well in the revival of the existing market, as well as a large TV screen and a stage for acoustic musical performances. Although the building is blessed with much natural light thanks to its windowed canopy, a centralised lighting scheme will alter the mood depending on the time of day, with a different evening time ambiance. A “garden” area will house further stalls as well as the Chester in Lego display.
The car park stairwells have been decorated by artist Graham Boyd. The stairs cover each of the car park’s seven floors and have been hand painted with unique murals depicting some famous and less well-known aspects of the city’s culture and history. The North stair-core titled ‘City of Parades’ features scenes from Chester’s long history of annual parades and events including the annual Midsummer Watch parade with the Chester Giants, the Winter Watch, Diwali and Pride parades. The South stair-core titled ‘Steps Through Time’ brings to life individual characters chosen to represent some of the people who have shaped Chester over two millennia; including Hugh Lupus and the Civil War. Information panels will provide further details with QR codes for links to additional information.
The new council run parking, which will replace the old market facilities will have 800 car spaces and 43 electric charging points. The cycle hub will offer secure indoor parking for 50 cycles with 50 additional spaces across the complex. Free e-bike charging will also be available. The parking tariff has not yet been revealed but resident blue badge holders will be able to park for 4 hours free.
Cllr Richard Beacham addressing critics of the market commented: -“I think in a community, there are many different voices, and everyone is entitled to have their say. The journey to the New Market has been influenced by everybody having their say. What I would say is that a decent proportion of the existing market traders have decided to come over, some haven’t because the offer doesn’t suit their personal circumstances or their idea of what they would like the market to do. Now that is concluding, I would hope that everybody, whether you were a dissenting voice or the most positive person in the world, will come and have a look and see what it’s like. It’s a place where you can see independent traders, and eat exciting and interesting food cooked by somebody that might live in your neighbourhood, we’ve created a market where people can come together, enjoy the atmosphere and buy things off local people
“I feel personally that I enjoyed getting to know a lot of the market traders, especially some of the ones that aren’t coming over and I do feel sad about that, because I know there are some that have been in the market a long time. But I do think that the mix we have is good mix and I do think it will be positive. The people that have come over all believe in the project, and I think that’s good for the culture.
“I think what we’re creating here is a magnet for people to come into Chester city centre. We have a new cultural and entertainment centre as well as a chance for people to try new businesses. It’s a chain of new places to explore, the new square, the arcade leading to the historic retail core, it’s an interesting pedestrianised area to walk around that feels safe in an historic setting”
The next phase of the development including a new use for the space occupied by the Forum/market complex remains a question for the future and is likely to involve further consultation with the public in the years ahead. The development is likely to include a residential element and would be delivered by the private sector investor rather than the Council, who would retain a strong interest in the designs and impact of any scheme. In the short term , Cllr Beacham commented that “”The frontage of the Forum will stay in use with some interesting plans to be announced in due course. The area behind will the frontage of the Forum will eventually close. The Crowne Plaza remains a busy hotel, we have Dial House, the Register Office, it’s not a completely dead area, ultimately, we need to have a plan for phase 2 of the development ”
The opening date for the development will be confirmed in the coming weeks