Hunt launched for Civic Centre development partner

Wed 3 April 2013, 6:06 pm

Reading Council is formally beginning the search for a development partner to regenerate the town's Hosier Street and Civic Area.

Its brief is to provide a mix of residential, commercial, retail, leisure and community facilities on the site of  the current Civic Centre, after the  council moves out next year and the 42-year-old building is demolished.

The site - which is bounded by the Hexagon Theatre, the Broad Street Mall, and the town’s magistrates court -  forms part of the borough’s West Side Major Opportunity Area, as defined in its Central Area Action Plan.

Reading said it was particularly keen for the proposals to “enhance and integrate” the Hexagon Theatre “into the heart of the town centre” and also accentuate the nearby conservation areas, including St Mary’s church.

The authority said any plan would also need to provide a new “21st Century” home for the Charter Market, which currently operates on Hosier Street, as well as demonstrating how the new development could be integrated with existing buildings - and how the remit could be expanded if other buildings became available.

In particular, Reading said that Thames Valley Police’s intention to replace its current town-centre police station - on nearby Castle Street - offered an opportunity for the council’s selected development partner to incorporate that site in its blueprint.

Council leader Jo Lovelock said a development partner would provide the authority with good opportunity to help an important part of the town centre realise its full potential.

“We as a council have a good track record of working alongside developers to deliver regeneration projects across Reading and we hope to find a proven partner to help us push forward this scheme as quickly as possible,” she said.

“Obviously redevelopment will not happen overnight however, so an interim plan for the site will be separately developed so that it will not be left as an eye-sore following demolition of the council offices.”

According to Reading’s developer prospectus, the authority is unable to fund the costs of any scheme, but will enter into a long-term development agreement with its successful partner and would either sell or lease parcels of land for the scheme.

It is, however, offering to forward-fund  costs relating to the demolition of the Civic Centre.

Reading said initial proposals for the project were sought by noon on 3 June, with a final partner selection and agreement expected in November.

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