Will new shops and restaurants revitalise this dilapidated town centre street?
- Credit: EAST OF ENGLAND CO-OP
Millions of pounds are being pumped into a new restaurant and retail destination for Colchester, in a move aimed at reviving a once-bustling town centre shopping precinct.
Working with Rose Builders, the East of England Co-op is investing £5.5million to transform the firm's former department store in Long Wyre Street, currently an empty eyesore, into five new restaurants, two retail units and 24 apartments.
Over the last few years, several shops have closed their doors in Long Wyre Street and nearby Priory Walk.
As of last summer, eight units in Priory Walk alone stood empty - with the loss of Superdrug and Peacocks delivering a major blow to shoppers and businesses in the area.
Now, as the owners of Priory Walk plan to rejuvenate the street and as Rose Builders start work on the Co-op development, called St Nicholas Quarter, community leaders believe fortunes are finally starting to head in the right direction.
Colchester Borough Council bosses said: "This major work will breathe new life into the building and the area, providing an economic boost with the prospect of further job creation and benefits for the whole town. Along with the work to renovate the former Jacks building nearby, it shows if we want to invest in the future of the town and underpin its growth, we must make the most of existing commercial spaces and utilise our town centre assets as the borough grows."
'It used to be thriving with shoppers'
Ward councillor Simon Crow fondly remembers a time when Long Wyre Street boasted a plethora of fashion stores and was bustling with shoppers.
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"It used to be so bustling and thriving and full of fashion shops, so it has been a shame to see it deteriorate," he said.
"This £5.5million is a significant investment in the town centre which is very welcome, especially at a time when there has been so much bad news with shops closing. The former Co-op building has been empty for far too long so it will be very good to see that filled.
"This is very positive for Colchester. With the owners of Priory Walk investing a lot of money in doing it up and this going on, this area of town should hopefully be a thriving shopping centre once again."
MORE: New images unveiled of multi-million pound student flats planMr Crow added: "I was concerned none of this would happen, especially the Priory Walk project, until the future of the former bus station in Queen Street was decided but it has all gone ahead anyway which is welcome news."
Mark Goacher, Green councillor for the area, added: "This is excellent news and once the Co-op has been refurbished hopefully more shoppers will be attracted to this area again. A few coffee shops have opened in Priory Walk recently which is also a positive step, it has encouraged more people to visit that part of town."
If all goes to plan, the Co-op scheme should be completed in autumn 2020.
"Long Wyre Street has a special place in our long history, so we are incredibly pleased to have brought Rose Builders on board to bring our plans to fruition," said Nick Denny, joint chief executive for the East of England Co-op.
"There has already been a great amount of interest shown in the units and we look forward to providing a new destination for residents and visitors to Colchester."