Businesses welcome transformation of Riverside centre in Norwich

Riverside at night from the Lady Julian Bridge. Picture: Denise Bradley

Riverside at night from the Lady Julian Bridge. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2012

Walk down to the Riverside complex in Norwich, and you're guaranteed to pick up on the new buoyant mood among traders.

A few years ago business leaders at the centre were down in the dumps with two flagship venues, the bowling alley and nightclub, both closed.

Traders were also hit by the knock-on effect of the closure of two popular bars, Norwegian Blue and Squares.

But the Hollywood Bowl and Wonderland nightclub are now thriving on the site, and the centre's fortunes and that of the nearby retail park picked up again this week with the news that two high street chains are moving in.

It means the centre will soon be able to boast more choice for customers who already enjoy dining at restaurants such as Frankie and Benny's and Nando's, watching the latest films at the Odeon, and socialising at the Wetherspoon's Queen of Iceni pub.

As reported yesterday, more than 100 jobs will be created by the double boost of the arrival of restaurant chain TGI Friday's and the development of a second city H&M clothes store.

TGI Friday's is to open a new waterside restaurant in September at the former Squares site, while H&M is setting up shop at the nearby Riverside Retail Park on July 25.

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The restaurant, which will create 80 jobs, is the brand's first in the region, and will be able to serve more than 260 guests at any one time – making it one of the largest-capacity Friday's in the UK.

Meanwhile in a further boost, the former Norwegian Blue site is set to open as a Coast to Coast US-themed restaurant with dishes and cocktails inspired from recipes from across the continent. Contractors are currently fitting out the building which is set to open in August.

The H&M store is moving into the former Peacock's, and Laura Howes, duty manager at Hobbycraft, which is next to it, believes it will be a good addition to the site.

She said: 'I think the Riverside centre and retail park is on the up. It's good news that TGI's, Coast to Coast and H&M are coming. I think H&M will be a good replacement for Peacocks, which closed at the site. It will be a 2-storey shop, so should bring in a lot of people to the area.'

The arrival of TGI's and Coast to Coast means that all the units at the centre will soon be occupied, which is good news for neighbouring businesses.

Alasdair Peat, manager at the Queen of Iceni, said: 'When they open it will be the first time in six years that all the units at the complex have been open. I'm really looking forward to it.

'While we have always maintained record sales throughout the period, it will be great to have all the units occupied. In terms of what Norwich will be able to offer, restaurant-wise, it will be second to none.'

Richard Whitaker, centre manager at Hollywood Bowl Norwich, added: 'From our perspective it's great that they will bring an increased footfall to the area.'

Meanwhile, Ryan Wilson, assistant manager at the Bridge Tavern, opposite the Wetherspoon's Queen of Iceni pub, said: 'It's good news for Riverside. Norwegian Blue and Squares were empty a long time. Hopefully, it will be a turnaround for the area.'

The news has also been welcomed by the Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, whose spokesman Nova Fairbank said: 'Confirmation that both Coast to Coast and TGI restaurants will be locating to the Riverside area is positive and welcome news. Norwich has a vibrant and thriving retail and leisure sector and the news that all units at Riverside are now full, only serves to highlight this.

'The new restaurants will boost local economic growth and will help Norwich to continue to be one of the top retail and leisure destinations in the UK.'

Mark Lomax, property manager for Riverside centre owner X-Leisure, said: 'The addition of these two fantastic restaurants is great news for Riverside.

'It demonstrates the popularity of the destination and complements the existing entertainment and food offer. In addition we are pleased that these openings will create up to 130 new jobs for the local economy.'

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