Published: 06:00, 01 January 2020
A multi-million pound cinema and leisure complex opened in Ashford town centre this time last year, but 12 months on a number of units initially expected to be filled by big-name restaurants remain empty.
In December 2018, five-year-old schoolboy Henry Rowles cut the ribbon to the £75 million pound Elwick Place, alongside council leader Gerry Clarkson, Ashford MP Damian Green and then Ashford Mayor Cllr Jessamy Blanford.
Cineworld's boutique brand Picturehouse started operating from the newly-constructed site when it opened, as well as a 58-bedroom Travelodge hotel located next door.
Ashford International Model Railway Excellence Centre, also known as AIMREC, recently opened its doors - filling the first retail unit surrounding the cinema.
But 12 months on the entertainment hub is still partially empty.
Here we take a look at the exciting changes happening in 2020, as two new restaurants and a 24-hour gym look set to join the complex.
Ashford International Model Railway Excellence Centre
It was full steam ahead at Elwick Place when a long-awaited model railway museum opened its doors last month.
AIMREC bosses report they have had more than 1,000 visitors in the first few weeks of December.
Six tracks were installed for AIMREC’s first weekend, including the layout which won Ashford-based modelling team Railmen of Kent the Channel 5 Great Model Railway Challenge.
The AIMREC board will use the unit as a marketing suite to promote its longer term plans to create a permanent model railway entertainment and educational centre in Ashford.
The suite, which is free to enter, is open each Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
Afro-Caribbean restaurant Dansaki held a launch party last month to give visitors a taste of what is to come when it opens in March.
Troubling weather conditions saw the event called off during the day, but the Dansaki team were able to proceed into the evening - serving a BBQ grill and buffet style food, followed by lively performances from Zulu dancers and DJs.
Dubbed 'dansFEST', organisers say it will be a yearly summer event.
The catering firm has been serving up Afro-Caribbean food and entertainment to business and private clients across the county since 2011.
Bosses are now set to expand the business and open a vibrant tapas lounge and bar catering for around 110 diners in Elwick Place.
Despite a number of set-backs, Macknade is preparing to open at the leisure complex in 2020.
Shortly after signing a 10-year lease for the 5,123 sq ft unit, bosses announced that the restaurant, bar and delicatessen would be up and running by October - but this has been delayed until this year.
A launch party was also held in the Elwick Place with live music and food and drink to celebrate its upcoming arrival.
About 30% of the unit will be dedicated to the sale of goods, with the remaining 70% taken up by the dining area.
An official opening date has not yet been announced.
US firm Snap Fitness is preparing to open a 24-hour gym in Elwick Place this month, although a launch date has not yet been confirmed.
The fitness company has signed a 10-year lease for the 4,284 sq ft unit as part of a half a million pound investment in the site.
Memberships for Snap Fitness include group fitness classes and access to the premises 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
A functional training area, large free weights area and individual shower rooms will be installed inside.
It is set to create 10 new jobs.
More by this authorGeorgia Woolf