Cosmo Corner – Future Friar Street

New proposals have emerged for a 103-home build-to-rent scheme adjacent to the Station Hill development on Friar Street. The developer, Shaviram Group, held an online consultation and has published materials online where you can provide your feedback. Here’s what I picked up on this latest residential plan for Reading town centre.

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Cosmo Corner – Future Friar Street

A closer look at Kings Meadow View

Forbury Retail Park from above

Another vast new residential regeneration project has been unveiled this week. This time it’s Forbury Retail Park in the spotlight. As always, I went along to the public consultation to see what’s going on. I’ll try to cover the facts, but I can’t help but express more than one central reservation about these new plans.

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A closer look at Kings Meadow View

City Status – Convincing the Naysayers

I’ve followed the topic of city status for a while. So long, in fact, that I remember first learning that we’d lost out to Wolverhampton in 2000 by seeing the headline on an Evening Post seller’s newsstand on Broad Street. I duly placed my 20 pence into an aged ink-stained hand and read all about it. More memorable was 2012 when BBC Berkshire announced we’d won and played Starship’s We Built This City, before having to rapidly clarify that we’d actually lost to Chelmsford in a comedic episode of local radio. If anyone has the clip do share it! I was obviously disappointed enough to remember these moments, but am I in a minority favouring the accolade? Well, that depends how you count. Every social media post I’ve seen on the topic, such as the one below, yields the same outcome – a large flurry of casual positivity in the form of likes and up votes, coupled with a handful of almost entirely negative written comments. Surveys have been favourable, with the exception of one local commentator who asked only whether the bid had “strong support” and narrowly flipped the outcome. It seems Reading overwhelmingly supports City Status to a weak extent. Most of the people minded to speak out are those minority naysayers, and they have a collection of arguments. So let’s take a look at them and see if we can convince the doubters to come onboard…

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City Status – Convincing the Naysayers

Blue Collar Permanent Venue! …Interview

Yesterday, the council announced a deal for Blue Collar to take over the historic Hosier St market, along with plans to transform an adjacent yard into a permanent food and drink venue. An array of recent positive news gives us confidence the town centre is on the right path to reshape itself in the face of current challenges. I’m particularly excited by this one – but let’s save my further thoughts for the end. First, here’s the full lowdown from Glen Dinning, owner of Blue Collar, who has kindly talked us through the plans.

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Blue Collar Permanent Venue! …Interview

A Green Signal for Station Hill

Last week, final approval was given to minor amendments to the Friar’s Walk residential element of the Station Hill proposals. This follows another consent a couple of months ago for an office building next to Thames Tower and a link bridge between the two. I approached the developer’s PR company and managed to get a statement confirming that, finally, construction work is imminent.

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A Green Signal for Station Hill

Jury’s Out for ex-Arcade Hotel Plan

New plans have been lodged for a hotel to replace the former Bristol & West arcade opposite Reading town hall. This is something of a saga site, with a troubled recent history of abandoned construction and a multitude of stalled proposals that I’ve covered on these pages before. The latest plans constitute only minor amendments to the physical appearance of the most recently approved scheme. However, developers now propose a hotel rather than an office/retail hybrid.

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Jury’s Out for ex-Arcade Hotel Plan

Queen Victoria Courtyard Scheme Unveiled

On these pages, I’ve frequently emphasised the need to drive Reading’s offer forward, to keep the visitors from neighbouring towns coming, and therefore to underpin the overall vitality of the town centre. Yet I reflect now that perhaps the biggest competition to those aims is not Oxford, Basingstoke and Newbury, but rather Amazon, Deliveroo and Netflix. Will the Covid lifestyle stick, or will there be a collective clamour to return to the physical, or the “in real life”? Thankfully, whilst lockdowns have shut us all indoors, that hasn’t stopped the investors and architects forming new plans to haul us off our sofas and back into town.

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Queen Victoria Courtyard Scheme Unveiled