WITH a multi-million pound refurbishment at Cheltenham's Regent Arcade ongoing since March, the building site has been kept under wraps. Echo reporter Joe Lane was yesterday among the first to get a sneak preview of how the centre will look.
I, like most Cheltonians, have been curious to find out what progress has been made on the Regent Arcade's £20 million makeover.
My parents used to take me there as a youngster as we did our Christmas shopping – and there is no doubting its status as one of the region's main retail centres.
Site manager Paul Rice greeted me at the entrance and took me to an elevated point from which we could survey diggers working below. The 3,340-sq metre swathe of retail ground space between the arcade and Lloyds bank, covering three floors, was a skeleton of metal framework.
Former units have been demolished and foundations for the new structure have been laid.
"It has been one of the most challenging projects I have ever worked on," said Paul, who worked for construction firm Willmott Dixon. "
Not in terms of size – just because it is so enclosed.
"We are working within three walls and the challenge has been getting materials in while causing minimum disruption to other businesses.
"But it will be a project I'm sure we will all be proud of when it is finished.
"I am from Tewkesbury and often come to Cheltenham to do my shopping, so it's nice to think the Regent Arcade will be set up well for years to come."
The revamp will pave the way for the much-heralded arrival of clothing chain H&M and an expanded River Island.
The main entrance will get a new Bath stone facade and the front will include a stone archway and glass doors looking onto the High Street.
A team of 30 workers will working on the site until it is handed over to the tenants to fit it out next summer.
The floors of the new units due to be laid next week and, from there, progress should be swift.
Good news then for Cheltenham's retail sector. If stores like H&M and River Island are looking to commit their futures to the town, it can't be all doom and gloom.