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McDonald's and Burger King shunned by council bosses hoping to fill the Riverside in Kingsmead which will include Curzon cinema

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Council bosses attempting to attract tenants for a £115 million leisure complex in the city say they hope to secure eateries where “people need cutlery”.

Restaurants, cafes and shops are being sought to take spots at the The Riverside in Kingsmead, which will include a five-screen cinema run by Curzon.

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

But fast food chains like Burger King or McDonald’s are not on the menu of desired operators when it opens next year.

Regeneration chiefs say they instead favour places offering “sit-down meals” as they try to get deals over the line for the site’s 12 commercial units.

Already two are under offer, and decision making powers were recently handed to council officers to fast-track negotiations with interested parties.

Caroline Hicks, the council’s head of business and regeneration, says tenants will include combination of local businesses and better-known brands.

“It will be a mixture, and we want a broad appeal, but we’re not going down the Burger King or McDonald’s end of the market,” she said.

Caroline Hicks from Canterbury City Council
Caroline Hicks from Canterbury City Council

“We’ve had a phrase from early on, that people will need cutlery for any food being sold there. So it’s not fast food joints, there will be places for sit-down meals.

“There will still be coffee shops in there and a bar-type operation. It’ll be a mix, and a mixture of brands and local.

“We’re really confident with the level of interest and the deals we can get done. We’re on track for where we wanted to be at this stage.

“We’ve got two offers with local operators who want to be by a Curzon - they know it’s the right brand for them and they’re nearly both signed.

“Then we’ve got three other units in quite advanced talks. I was obviously concerned there would be less interest during the pandemic but things really haven’t slowed down.”

The Riverside site is due to be open next year
The Riverside site is due to be open next year

In November 2018, the city council agreed in a behind-closed-doors meeting to invest £23 million in securing commercial control of the long-awaited 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.

Two years down the line, and the Elwick Place development remains half-empty.

But Mrs Hicks is confident Canterbury’s scheme will not suffer the same fate.

“I feel very sorry for Ashford as it was very bad timing with how the food and drink market was going at the time,” she said.

The Kingmead site before construction work began last year
The Kingmead site before construction work began last year
Pictured this month, the Kingsmead development is progressing
Pictured this month, the Kingsmead development is progressing

“When it opened none of the other units were filled, but we’re not going to be in that position, far from it.

“Construction is coming along at a pace. The cinema is up to the second floor, Tarmac is laid down on the undercroft car park and the student accommodation modules have been shipped over from Morocco.

“You can’t miss the fact there is a big ongoing development and exciting things are occurring.

“Building work will be complete in the late summer next year, and then tenants will kit out the units.”

Aside from the commercial element, student accommodation comprising 493 beds will be built at the site, along with 189 homes.

By pumping millions into regenerating the former coach park and Serco depot, the council hopes the eight-acre attraction will encourage tourists to increase their stay in the city by walking along The King’s Mile or river to reach the site.

Away from the main bulk of the development opposite Sainsbury’s, 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.

The housing element of the scheme - to be delivered by Hyde Housing - is earmarked for completion in 2023.

What do you think? Email kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk.

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