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ACME wins planning for £300m shopping scheme in Chester

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ACME’s ambitious plans to overhaul the Northgate Quarter in Chester’s historic city centre have been given the green light

The practice, which has offices in London, Sydney and Berlin, has been working for four years on the £300 million retail-led scheme -  a replacement for earlier, abandoned proposals drawn up by architects Hopkins and Chapman Taylor for ING Real Estate Developers.

Backed by Chester West and Chester Council, ACME’s approved proposals for the 5.6ha shopping quarter have developed considerably since the first concepts emerged in early 2013 (see AJ 15.03.13).

Last year plans for a new four-star hotel and conference centre were added to the masterplan which also features 46,000m² of shops; a six-screen cinema, cafes and restaurants set around a new square; 120 homes; offices; and a new market hall to replace the current Chester Market.

The development is expected to be delivered in two stages. The first phase, which includes the new cinema, is due to start on site next year (2017).

The second phase, scheduled to begin in 2019, includes the demolition of the Crowne Plaza hotel, Forum shopping centre and several other buildings to make way for a new department store, several new streets and a ’number of new buildings comprising, retail, residential and office uses’.

Both phases are designed to ‘connect seamlessly’ to the historic fabric of Chester, with new routes opening towards Watergate Street in the south, the cathedral in the east and the racecourse in the west.

’It is rare to have an opportunity to reshape and restore a city centre with so much heritage’

Friedrich Ludewig of ACME said: ’It is rare to have an opportunity to reshape and restore a city centre with so much heritage and history as Chester. Working with councillors, market traders, businesses and residents for the last four years, we have been able to shape a scheme that balances urban aspirations, commercial opportunities and cultural potential to create a true mixed use development for locals and new visitors alike.’

David Lewis, chief executive of Rivington Land, the council’s retained development managers, added: ’Obtaining this resolution to grant planning consent for Chester Northgate is a massive achievement on the path to delivery of this significant scheme.

’In combination with the level of occupier demand we are witnessing and the recent exchange of contacts with Picturehouse, this consent represents real progress and a major corner piece of the overall jigsaw.’

The development is due to complete in 2021.

GIF - ACME's Chester city centre scheme


Architect’s view

The masterplan extends streets and lanes, with new squares and buildings designed to reflect the urban scale of Chester. Extensive research into local architecture and materials ensures that the look of the new buildings reflect the varied context of the city.

This development should work for the future of Chester while addressing its historic fabric, working sensitively around archeological deposits. Northgate will become a new part of the city centre that embodies the strong identity of the Chester, enhancing a once neglected area.

Site section of ACME's Chester plans

Site section of ACME’s Chester plans

Site section of ACME’s Chester plans

The former library building will be extensively refurbished, with a new route opened up through the centre that provides access from the Town Hall Square to the new Market Square, made up of a series of arches.

The main façade has strong local identity and will be retained, while the façade facing Market Square will become a series of gable-ended bays formed of dark horizontal fins of bronze coloured anodized aluminium. Designed as a reinterpretation of the nearby Tudor-style aesthetic, these bays will feature deep setback glazing, providing a strong rhythm along the street edge.

The cinema will be strategically located near to the existing Storyhouse, creating a new leisure zone for the area. Resting on top of the market building, it has been developed as a collection of sloping boxes that match the cinema screens contained within.

As the screens don’t require natural light, a textured façade is proposed for the exterior that breaks down the mass of the building and offers opportunities for dramatic lighting at night. The market hall will be identified by a series of arches that wrap round the outside, with a canopy that projects out and provides covered spaces for people to eat and rest.

The arches continue inside and are arranged in a complex geometry of single and double-span gaps, ensuring that the spaces inside are varied.

The old Crowne Plaza Hotel will be demolished to make way for a new hotel, viewed from St. Martin’s Way, Town Hall Square, and Watergate Street. The proposed building is comprised of an intricate brick pattern that recalls the local Victorian tradition of using this material decoratively. Windows will be framed by stepped,recessed bays that run around the entire exterior.

These upper levels will sit on top of a plinth made up of pigmented acid-etched concrete. A rooftop restaurant will crown the hotel with a folded timber-framed structure, providing panoramic views out over Chester. The ridges and valleys formed by these pitches are familiar in the roofscape of the city.

Acme Chester 091 018 I  market interior 1


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