As I write, the stunning 50 feet high Christmas tree from Elvedon Forest is standing in its impressive tub on Cornhill covered in masses of bright lights and golden baubles and the town Christmas lights have been switched on. A handful of empty units have been filled by Christmas pop-up shops; Lloyds Avenue has a Christmas/Craft Market covered by a large marquee, Ipswich Town Football Club has an exhibition and pop-up shop in the Town Hall including the replica FA Cup; card barrows, carol singers and buskers abound, children run around excitedly and there is a buzz in the air.
Many changes have occurred in Ipswich in the last three months. Here are just a few of them.
Current building projects
*The Winerack is very nearly complete and the adjoining paving on Albion Quay is in progress as I write, which will be the finishing touch and complete the matching paving along the full length of this side of the Waterfront for the first time.
*The Hold is taking shape fast. The tower crane has gone, the hoardings are down and completion is expected in early 2020.
*The New Wolsey Theatre concourse reshaping is well under way and scaffolding has been erected as construction of the ‘Golden Pavilion’ has started, replacing the Wolsey Studio and adding rehearsal facilities for the theatre. Completion is expected in May 2020.
*The Buttermarket Centre internal refurbishment is progressing very slowly. This includes new flooring and updated wall cladding and a complete redesign of the entrance facing Butter Market.
*St. Francis Tower had its external cladding removed last year and is expected to have new upgraded cladding added in the near future after the decision on who pays for it.
*Cornhill snagging issues are being dealt with. The ‘marmite’ sculpture nicknamed ‘Cornhenge’ has been removed. Work is currently in progress replacing the paving on the tops and bottoms of the steps to make them more visible. In the New Year additional handrails will be added down the middle of the steps, also to the Town Hall steps. The tapered step, currently with barriers, will disappear to be replaced with a combination of seating and planters.
Recently completed projects
*The St Peters Wharf paving and upgrade has been completed with new lighting, seating, litter bins and three silver birch trees with smart surrounding cages to protect the trunks.
*The St Stephens Lane brick planters beside the church have been repaired and are looking much smarter. Other tidying-up work has been in progress in Arras Square.
*The former Bar Fontaine facing St Margarets Plain has been converted into smart apartments, the formerly derelict building looking attractive and loved again.
*Cards Direct has opened in Westgate Street replacing Weymouth-based tReds (shoes and fashion); this was their only shop in East Anglia, which recently closed.
*Pretzie coffee and patisserie restaurant opened at the top end of Westgate Street and has proved very popular.
*Café Myra opened on December 2 in the former Doorsteps site on St. Nicholas Street.
*The Orient convenience Asia store opened in Carr Street.
*Papaki coffee shop is due to open in King Street as I write.
*Paddy and Scott’s international coffee shop chain have opened their new head office in the University of Suffolk next to their flagship Waterfront outlet.
*An impressive giant Noah’s Ark is berthed alongside Orwell Quay, open to the public with a Bible stories exhibition. This is the first time the vessel has visited the UK and she is expected to stay in Ipswich for the next three months. This is a real coup for the town.
Shops and pubs
*The former Swan Inn in King Street has reopened under new owners as The Swan & Hedgehog.
*The Falcon in Queen Street/Falcon Street at the time of writing has just reopened under the same management to see how things go.
*The (Grand Old) Duke of York in Woodbridge Road is reopening under new owners as ‘The Duke’ after redecoration.
*Argos has closed their Carr Street branch and reopened in the Sainsbury’s store in Upper Brook Street, as is happening with the Sainsbury-owned Argos stores in many towns.
*Diechmann shoes are reported to be opening early in 2020 in the Cornhill site to be vacated by Burtons/Dorothy Perkins in the New Year.
*Hayes Travel are reported to eventually be filling the empty Thomas Cook unit in Tavern Street which has been empty since the collapse of the latter earlier in 2019.
*A Vegan Pub is to be opened by the Lloyds Avenue based Peninsular Vegan Foods/Hanks. So far the location is secret but the pub is expected to open soon.
*A Nail Bar is being fitted out in the former Martin & Co. estate agents unit in Queen Street which has been empty for a while.
*Broomhill Pool has recently put out to tender the work to restore and reopen the lido, with work planned to start early 2020; completion possibly by 2021.
*McCarthy Stone – we still await a start on the assisted living complex on the former Archant Newspapers site in Lower Brook Street by the same developer completing the Winerack.
*New Police Station – plans have been put forward for a revamp and extension to the Princes Street Fire Station so that the Police Station can move in with them, replacing the current Police Station facing Museum Street and backing on to Chapman Lane.
*The Defiance, Stoke Street – plans have been submitted to convert the former pub into apartments with the addition of a sizeable extension.
*Burtons site, St Peters Wharf. Exciting plans have been put forward for this site and adjoining building next to DanceEast for an arts and media hub. If the plans are given the green light, two storeys could be added to the former Burton's building. A mix of 14 flats is proposed for the third to sixth floors, with a plant and roof terrace and restaurant on the top floor. Funding still has to be found for this project.
As projects occur during 2020 we will try to keep you updated through our quarterly Newsletter and Ipswich Society Facebook page.