It’s a case of “Anything you can do” for Reading’s Broad Street Mall. Following news last year that The Oracle has lodged plans for bowling and mini golf to replace the lower floors of House of Fraser, the Broad Street Mall has found a tenant to provide… mini golf and bowling. “Bunker Reading”, in the storage basement of the former Argos store, would provide a 12-hole mini-golf course, together with a two-lane bowling lounge. It’s a bold move to go up against Hammerson’s much larger leisure scheme, but I think this place looks the business, and they look likely to strike first.
Regular readers may recall that I have mentioned the lack of a local bowling facility once or twice. And now they’re coming along more often than the Number 17. However, this latest plan is distinctly different to The Oracle’s 20+ lane plan that would be taken by a national operator. Bunker Reading (website: http://bunkerbowl.com/) will be a far smaller, independently run hybrid venue, attempting to offer family leisure but also more of a themed restaurant/bar in the evenings.
There’ll be hoping the snare the after work crowd. LinkedIn will have doubtless told you that your team should be small enough to be fed by two pizzas (artisanal or otherwise), so maybe two bowling lanes will equally suffice. But expect them to be pretty booked up at weekends until the House of Fraser plan moves ahead. The indoor crazy golf concept had been trialled in a hidden-away unit upstairs in the mall a couple of years back, but the dedicated permanent sites I’ve been to elsewhere have been far superior, so I’m optimistic this will prove a hit.
The site is part of the former Argos store, which has been split up into a seemingly infeasible number of separate units. Iceland is already open fronting Oxford Road, whilst the first floor is to become a cinema, as has been widely reported just recently. Somehow that venue will also accommodate food kiosks, an outdoor terrace seating area, a cafe run by Compound Coffee, the four cinema screens, and a bar. The cinema operator is still looking for suggestions to name the venue, with prizes available.
Bunker Reading will take the basement, accessed from a small surface entrance, whilst the ground floor parts fronting Queens Walk are still available. It’s a long-awaited regeneration of these pedestrian-only routes around the back of Broad St Mall, with other developments in the pipeline that should create enough critical mass to generate steady footfall through the area to sustain a multitude of businesses.
One such development is the mall’s residential scheme. That would appear to be having a tricky ride through planning with local groups voicing concerns. I think it’s right to put the design under the microscope to ensure high quality, but hopefully they can find a way forward. In truth, I’m not sure views from the conservation area beyond the IDR are really made any worse. That said, the mall is saying they can’t add more trees/planting due to weight constraints on the podium structure. Well, they’ve found a way to bung 18 storeys on it, so maybe they could try a bit harder there – it would be to the benefit of the traffic-free thriving commercial area they’re trying to create. Maybe if we could get the Oracle to plant some more trees that would motivate them!
What do you think of the new plans for this western part of the town centre? As always, comments very welcome – no registration required.Follow @readingonthames