At this time of year things tend to slow down a little. Town centre retail is on the decline nationally. Ipswich has suffered but is by no means worse off than others around the UK. The biggest disappointment is that Pret A Manger will no longer be opening in the former Grimwade’s outfitters on Cornhill.
Council Leader David Ellesmere said: ‘We understand that there has been a national change in direction because Pret was bought by JAB last year, and they have changed the focus of Pret; there is now less money available for new store openings.’ They have not, however, ruled out Ipswich in the future. Structural problems with the building almost certainly triggered their final decision on the Cornhill site.
New shops / restaurants etc.
Flannels which is majority-owned by the retail tycoon Mike Ashley, has confirmed that it is opening a new store in Ipswich’s Buttermarket Shopping Centre. Ashley, founder of Sports Direct, also has stakes in several other large retail names including Debenhams.
Shawarmer is a new chicken restaurant due to open soon in the former Brett’s store in Westgate Street under a private owner.
Wiff Waff bar and grill recently opened in the former Grand Central unit on the Waterfront. Still the same owners (TLC Inns) based in Wickford Essex, who have 11 restaurants and inns in the area and have rebranded the restaurant to another of their company brands.
Food Warehouse (part of the Iceland group) are due to open two new food stores in the spring, one in the Suffolk Retail Park on London Road in the former Brantano unit and another store in the former MFI unit in the Euro Retail Park.
Home Bargains are due to open a new store this spring in the former Dunelm unit in the Suffolk Retail Park.
The new 93 bedroom easyHotel (part of the easyJet group) opened its doors on Northgate Street (once Assembly Rooms, School of Art, Ipswich High School, Egertons etc.) in January.
Cardinal Park: the external upgrade and modernisation of its restaurants complex has been completed.
Crown Street apartments. After around two years of work this conversion of a former restaurant on Crown Street is all but completed.
So far Ipswich has managed to hold on to Patisserie Valerie, t Reds and HMV who have all already closed numerous stores throughout the UK this year and may close more.
Peacocks have a closing down sale, but we understand this is while their situation is reviewed and may not be final.
Marks and Spencer have closed several stores in the UK recently and will be closing more. ‘We are on track to restructure our store portfolio with over 100 full-line closures and expect to see newly remodelled stores open next year’ said M&S Chief Executive Steve Rowe. So far the Ipswich branch has survived.
Debenhams is considering closing 50 of its 166 stores. So far the Ipswich store has survived.
Current building projects.
*Developer John Howard (also developer of the ‘Winerack’) hopes to start work on the McCarthy & Stone assisted-living residential complex on the former Archant Newspapers site in Lower Brook Street around May this year following an archaeological dig on the site.
*The completion of the Winerack residential tower containing 150 flats and car stacker for over 200 vehicles, to include ground floor commercial units on Ipswich Waterfront continues to progress with completion expected in early 2020. The first phase is expected to be handed over in March this year.
*Pauls Maltings office conversion in Princes Street. This upmarket project is nearing completion. The plans for the Maltings complex include a new glass atrium linking the main buildings, and light wells to bring in floods of light to the main building. It will be very modern, flexible space, for a mix of businesses of various sizes, including creatives.
*The Hold. The new Suffolk Records Office is now taking shape fast on Fore Street and is expected to complete in early 2020.
*There is activity at the old Odeon on Majors Corner which is being converted into Hope Church, currently housed on Fore Hamlet, to include a public café and events and conference facilities for hire.
*The former Bar Fontaine and La Dolce Vita night club on St. Margarets Plain and Old Foundry Road is now taking shape as smart apartments and should complete later this year.
*St. Peters Wharf, Ipswich Waterfront. Work started in January to improve this entrance to the Waterfront from Stoke Bridge. Lighting, trees, seating, fencing, paving and road resurfacing are all included in the plan as well as a raised viewing platform over St. Peters Dock, currently hidden by the 1960's flood wall. Completion expected in June 2019.
*Cornhill, finishing touches are expected to take place soon to include polishing the surfaces of the ‘Henge', new and additional handrails on the Town Hall steps and a solution to the dangerous step (currently with temporary fencing) which may include seating of some sort.
Below: The Winerack scaffolding coming down, February 2019.