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HOK's Dome arena set to open by Christmas- 2004

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The Dome's HOK-designed arena will open by Christmas 2004, a Meridian Delta consortium spokesperson has confirmed, while dismissing speculation over delays to the project as 'irrelevant'.

The spokesperson told the AJ that there is a detailed planning and construction schedule for the project, but that it will not be made public until the final negotiations between the consortium and the government have been completed.

However, delays are already foreseen. Geoff Wright, director of town planner Robert Turley Associates, told the AJ that the size of the project would lead to delays through extensive public consultation. He added that the scheme could also be under pressure due to the Planning Green Paper.

'Although the reforms in the discussion document won't be in force for the Greenwich scheme, the government will be anxious for the Dome project to be an example of best planning practice, ' said Wright.

The Meridian Delta consortium - including Lend Lease Europe, Quintain Estates and Anschutz Entertainment - triumphed in its bid to redevelop the 77ha site before Christmas (AJ 20/27.12.01) with a deal that promised £4 billion of investment in the Greenwich peninsula.

The site is masterplanned by Terry Farrell and Partners and includes the HOK-designed 20,000seat Millennium Dome arena. The plan includes 5,000 homes, as well as offices, shops, leisure facilities, parkland and public spaces. The area will create 20,000 jobs. The quarter around the Dome will be known as Dome Waterfront. Access to it will be free and it will include live entertainment and sports facilities, restaurants, bars, retail and community facilities. Dome Waterfront and the HOK-designed arena will receive £200 million of investment.

No money will be paid to the government up front. Instead the site will be leased for 999 years - taking the project into the next millennium - and the government will receive a proportion of the profits over the next 20 years.

Meridian Delta will also invest in improvements to Greenwich's public transport infrastructure and will focus on developing bus, Tube and river links to the site. A rapid transit link to Greenwich town centre is also under consideration. Transport is a high priority as Anschutz Entertainment expects to host 150 events in the arena in the first year.

The scheme beat two other shortlisted projects - the Wellcome Trust wanted to turn the Dome into a biotechnology centre; and developer Tops Estates promised a sports academy.

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