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Canterbury Riverside and Curzon cinema development in Kingsmead hoped to be complete by summer 2021

Developers behind a £115 million leisure complex boasting a cinema, restaurants and shops say the new venue will open next summer.

Dubbed Canterbury’s answer to Westwood Cross, the groundworks for the Riverside scheme at the former coach park and Serco depot off Sturry Road have been progressing throughout the year.

A new CGI of the Riverside development, showing where Canoe Wild will be based
A new CGI of the Riverside development, showing where Canoe Wild will be based

The development is being led by cash-strapped Canterbury City Council and new CGIs showcasing how it will look have been released.

Structures are yet to be built at the eight-acre site and no brand names for the commercial units have been revealed.

But both the council and developers Linkcity are confident the project, which will be fronted by a five-screen Curzon cinema, will be ready for summer 2021.

Canoe Wild, which has an existing business at Grove Ferry, will be setting up at the site and operating from a new pontoon to be installed on the River Stour.

As well as two bars, four restaurants, a cinema, four coffee/retail units, two food markets and a new public square, there is also a heavy residential element to the huge project.

Piling work at the site is almost complete - passers-by will soon see structures begin to take shape
Piling work at the site is almost complete - passers-by will soon see structures begin to take shape

Student accommodation comprising 493 beds will be built at the site along with 189 homes.

In November 2018, the city council agreed in a behind-closed-doors meeting to invest £23 million on securing commercial control of the long-awaited development. At the time, the move was labelled an “unneeded commitment to more debt” by opposition Labour leader Cllr Alan Baldock.

However, the council says the city has been “crying out for this style of development for a very long time” and previously stressed how important the regeneration of the Kingsmead area is for Canterbury.

Bosses hope the attraction will encourage tourists to increase their stay in the city by walking along The King’s Mile or river to reach the development.

A similar council-backed scheme in Ashford - involving a new cinema and accompanying commercial units away from the main town centre - got off to a rocky start when bosses failed to secure any tenants to fill smaller units earmarked for big-name restaurants.

The residential buildings due to be built at Kingsmead
The residential buildings due to be built at Kingsmead

But Canterbury City Council is confident all of the commercial space will be filled next year.

Authority spokesman Rob Davies said: “The process of marketing the units and attracting operators is in full swing, with conversations focusing on a range of regional and national operators across the restaurant, coffee, retail and leisure sectors.

“We are not going to discuss specific operators right now, or the progress of negotiations with those operators, due to the confidential nature of those conversations.

“One of the reasons we took the decision to invest in the scheme was to ensure greater control over the ability to attract the right type of operators into the scheme, helping to realise the extensive regeneration benefits of the scheme.

“Given operator interest in the scheme to date and the ongoing conversations that are being held, we are confident we will not see a situation such as that at Elwick Place, Ashford.

The Riverside site is due to be open next summer
The Riverside site is due to be open next summer
The council is confident the commercial element of the project will be delivered next year
The council is confident the commercial element of the project will be delivered next year

“The build of the cinema and commercial elements remains on course for completion during summer 2021, with the student accommodation element still on course to be completed in time for the 21/22 academic year.

“Over the coming months we will start to see the exciting stage of the superstructures rising from the ground and starting to take shape.”

All other major council-led developments - such as the high street regeneration and Wincheap park and ride expansion - have been put on hold for at least a year.

But work on the Riverside has continued during lockdown.

The homes, of which 40% will be council houses, are due to be complete by 2023.

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