Ipswich: New owner of the wine rack vows to complete luxury flats development - and expresses hope for foot bridge to link the Waterfront to the town centre
13:37 05 August 2014
Sarah Lucy brown
An ambitious developer who has purchased a prominent unfinished high-rise concrete tower - known as “the wine rack” on Ipswich Waterfront has outlined his vision for the future of the eyesore.
John Howard sees lack of car parking and the physical isolation of the waterfront, which is separated from the town centre by a traffic-choked one-way system, as the only remaining barriers to its ongoing redevelopment and is calling for plans for a pedestrian bridge to the town to be made a reality.
Mr Howard, and long-time business partner Jeremy Scowsill, are behind Marina Developments (Ipswich) Ltd, which bought Block A of the Regatta Quay complex in June and he is confident it will be completed and turned into luxury flats.
Nicknamed “the wine rack”, the looming concrete skeleton came to symbolise the crippling effects of the Credit Crunch on the town’s economy and a very visual reminder of its years in the doldrums post 2008 after the company behind it collapsed.
But Mr Howard, who lives in Claydon, near Ipswich, and has been involved in development schemes all around the country, says his company’s plans will lift the already impressive Waterfront area further and help kickstart other projects for as yet undeveloped parts of the waterfront.
“It will help all the other prices in the area. It’s good news for Ipswich,” he said.
But while the ‘wine rack’ building comes with its own 260 space parking area, he believes the waterfront as a whole needs more parking.
“I think it needs a multi-storey car park,” he said. “It desperately needs a pedestrian bridge across the roads. It needs something to link it to the town.”
He revealed he had been talking to “one or two” car parking operators about whether they would be interested in creating a profitable. 600-space multi-storey car park along the Waterfront and had received a “positive” initial response from a couple of them.
“I think like all these things, it needs the borough council, it needs the county council and private developers to get together and work together,” he said. “We have got 260 car spaces in the core of our building, so we are fine, but I just think if you want to get retail down here we have got to get it full and get it buzzing.”
He added: “I think everyone wants to see the Waterfront finished and what has been now I think we can all be very proud of.”
He is hoping that the first phase of building work on the 149-luxury flat complex can begin around March or April of next year. This phase, which would include the completion of the outside shell of the building, and the creation of 30 flats at the top, along with parking and lifts, is envisaged to take around a year. Potential buyers are already showing an interest in the hi-tech, ultra modern apartments the firm is planning to build.
The next two phases, developing the lower flats, is expected to take around 18 months, which would mean that in theory, the building could be complete as early as the latter part of 2017.
A local developer has been earmarked, but contracts still have to be signed, said Mr Howard, and detailed proposals are currently with borough planners.
“I’m confident there’ll be enough buyers for them. My confidence comes from a number of areas. The economy has picked up. It’s a unique development in a great setting, an hour and a bit away from London by train,” he said. “Looking over the marina, it’s got an awful lot going for it.”