A vibrant new market open from dawn till dusk with a strong food offering could be launched in September 2019 as part of the £300m Northgate Development.
The existing market hall at the back of the Forum shopping centre has under-performed for years.
Northgate, backed by Cheshire West and Chester Council, aims to bring an improved retail and leisure offer to put Chester back on the map with a department store, four star hotel, housing and leisure facilities.
Phase one, which is forecast to start in autumn 2017, will include a market square on the site of the bus exchange with a new market below a six-screen cinema and next to the new cultural centre and a restaurant hub within the current Chester library.
Clare Huber, CWaC’s senior construction manager, told a press briefing her team has been looking at best practice markets elsewhere and seeking advice from the experts.
She said: “The new Chester market will be a bright and welcoming public market place, open to all. From early until late in the evening it will be a place to meet friends and family, to browse, shop and simply watch the world go by.”
Clare added: “It’s not due to open until September 2019 so what we’re really keen to do is bring the traders on the journey, help with the design of the market, get their stalls right, make sure it’s absolutely the right fit for Chester and do the appropriate consultation with the city as well so it’s an absolute place to come to and increases the footfall and ultimately it changes a little bit of the economy of Chester in terms of visitor attraction and place.”
Every one of the 44 existing traders will be given the opportunity to move into the new market which is about the same footprint as the current market hall which reduced by about a third in 2011.
However, it is accepted there may be ‘one or two’ stallholders who don’t fit the vision although there will be support for any traders who may benefit from trading at a neighbouring market or wish to change their product line.
Andrew Sparrow of WMC Retail, whose company has expertise in running markets, market moves and new designs, envisages a new business model that could see traditional older customers visiting during the day with a younger clientele at night within a different atmosphere. A fishmonger may, for example, run an oyster and champagne bar in the evening.
He said: “I call it the chameleon effect – that between 9am and 4pm it could be one thing, I could come back at six o’clock at night and it could be a completely different environment than it was during the day.
“So you’ve got a more traditional services, get your mobile phone fixed, get your fruit and veg, haberdashery, all those very standard trade you'd expect to find in a market. You come back at night and it could be completely different. Altrincham is a very good example of that.”
He added: “Often markets or retail destinations are designed around the current traders or retailers and often what the council may want or the developer may want; the critical thing is what the consumer wants because ultimately the consumer will be king.”
Stallholders will continue to trade from the existing market hall while the new market is being constructed on top of the bus exchange with the risk bus-using customers will be lost and the surroundings will be a dusty noisy building site.
CWaC is considering laying on shopper hopper buses and extra bus stops plus reduced rents for affected traders, some of whom may have to trade in temporary stalls on Town Hall Square in addition to discounted rents for the first six months within the new building.
Plans for the Chester Northgate can be seen online on the council’s website or follow the link on the project website www.chesternorthgate.com. Comments are welcome during the summer before the plans are presented to the planning committee on September 15.