Construction News reports some signs of progress with Laing O’Rourke and Vinci shortlisted as Cheshire West and Chester Council selects its main contractor.
And the trade journal understands a preferred bidder will be announced in May or June.
But reporter David Price wrote: “When the tender process kicked off last August the council had hoped a preferred bidder would be appointed by March and on site at the end of 2018.
“CN understands the start date is likely to be pushed back because of the longer tender process.”
Anchored by a 100,000 sq ft House of Fraser department store, Northgate aims to provide a range of 50 new shops and major stores, about 15 new cafés and restaurants, the city’s largest car park and 120 homes.
But the timeline graphic has been removed from the Northgate website showing phase 0 to convert the old library into a restaurant hub should have been completed in 2017 – however chains Cosy Club and Tapas Revolution are waiting in the wings.
Construction of phase 1, including a six-screen Picturehouse cinema, new market hall and Crowne Plaza hotel replacement, was due to start early this year with completion in 2019.
And phase 2 featuring new shops, restaurants and bars in place of The Forum shopping centre was scheduled to start later in 2018 with the whole development planned to be open in late 2020 or early 2021.
A recent article in Place North West indicates the entire time-frame has slipped by about 12 months.
For the council, Chester is at a crossroads with a ‘do or die’ scenario behind its decision to pursue Northgate as the city falls down the UK retail rankings.
But the Labour -led authority, which owns 85% of the regeneration site, has been struggling to attract external investors at a time when news from the High Street is gloomy.
That’s why last October councillors voted to risk £57m of taxpayers’ money in a bid to break the logjam. A report to the cabinet recommended the council maintain ‘critical momentum’ by funding the construction phase if no financing partner was forthcoming, subject to stringent commercial conditions, with the hope private money will follow later.
Inspector Neil Pope considered a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) by CWaC to buy 70 properties in the regeneration area as well as applications to move the market and carry out changes to the highway. The ultimate decision rests with the Secretary of State with a decision awaited.