Council bosses are confident the long-awaited launch of a £115million leisure complex will be a “real boost” to Canterbury’s pandemic recovery.
Aerial images taken this week show how the Riverside project at the old Serco depot is nearing the end of construction after years of work.
A number of bars and restaurants are set to open at the Kingsmead site this summer, alongside a five-screen Curzon cinema, canoe jetty and public square.
The city council, which has commercial control of the program, had hoped to complete the project last year, but pandemic-induced delays dashed plans for a 2021 launch.
But the head of the authority – Conservative Ben Fitter-Harding – thinks the development will be worth it.
“There are huge benefits across the board,” he said.
“Covid has done some damage to this high street, but this is a bold new offering that really boosts what Canterbury has to offer.
“It will definitely be a real shot in the arm. This is a great regeneration benefit for Northgate, a brilliant change of use for this site – from a Serco depot to a leisure complex with a cinema.
The photos show how some of the buildings are in a wood-clad style similar to the city’s controversial multi-storey car park in Canterbury West.
A 220-space underground car park will open as part of the development, but will not be immune to the council’s new higher rates, with motorists charged £2.50 an hour.
In addition to the flagship Curzon, there will be 12 other units in the complex.
None of the tenants have yet been revealed, but the council says a number are in the process of offering, while others remain in negotiation.
Bosses have previously said they are avoiding McDonald’s and Burger King as they opt for secure restaurants where ‘people need cutlery’.
“It’s really great to have so much interest in the units,” said Cllr Fitter-Harding.
“I understand that there are still offers in progress for the remaining units.
“It’s very exciting. I can’t wait for it to open because it’s taken a lot of hard work and effort on the part of the council to get to this point.
“For the inhabitants of the district, it is good to have this leisure aspect.
“I can’t wait to get out there and try it. And also for people coming to Canterbury, it’s another thing to do while you’re here.”
The major works of the housing should be finished in the coming months, when they will be handed over to the tenants to be equipped.
As well as the commercial element, student accommodation comprising 493 beds is being built on the eight-acre site, which faces Sturry Road.
The five-storey block has already been called the ugliest building in the city by critics.
A total of 189 housing units are also being delivered, 40% of which are social housing and the rest condominiums.
Northgate Borough Councilor Alan Baldock (Lab) wants it to be a success, but says the scheme ‘shows a lack of imagination and joint thinking’.
He said: ‘Council missed an opportunity to incorporate Northgate and Kings Mile as a place to walk, shop and eat on Riverside Road.
“It’s a slap in the face for hard-working local businesses struggling to recover. They should have benefited from this development – not been further affected by a CCC (the council) business venture that would take business away from them. »
Canoe Wild, which already has a business at Grove Ferry, will also set up shop on the site and operate from a new pontoon on the River Stour.