Work is taking place on plans for new public realm to the east of The Oracle in Reading.
Guests attending a webinar, put on as part of Hammerson’s consultation on plans to demolish parts of the shopping and leisure centre for around 475 Build-to-Rent flats and additional retail, leisure and co-working space, also heard the scheme would mean demolishing around half the former Debenhams store.
A panel made up of members of the team driving the scheme, led by Emily Bell from Turley Strategic Communications, was asked if there was scope to incorporate the former Horse and Barge pub in Duke Street which has been vacant for decades.
Hannah Knowles from Turley said: “We are seeking to engage with the surrounding landowners because of the works we are trying to look at along Yield Hall Place etc – and look at that broader public realm strategy.
“So be reassured we are trying to seek that engagement to see how we can look at it a bit more comprehensively.”
In response to a question on whether King’s Walk (now known as Atlantis Village) could be incorporated, Michael Dillon, from architectural practice CRTKL, said the footfall would not warrant the works required.
But Mr Dillon revealed around half the Debenhams store, including the riverside restaurants within the building, would go so that retail could be retained from within the mall.
Hammerson, he said, want a revitalised and reconfigured retail offer and a modernised leisure offer.
He said: “What we are looking at is getting a much much richer offer, one that excites people and gets people to continue to want to come to The Oracle and makes it an attractive place to be.
“That will include a reconfigured cinema offer on the Vue site. We are looking at potential for other leisure on the ground floor of the Debenhams site.
“It could be bowling, that’s one kind of preferred use, but it could be others. Then we are looking at retail above that. We are also looking to make sure some kind of café offer is extended along the Vue site as well.”
The new cinema will likely have slightly fewer screens than the current 11. Mr Dillon suggested those are likely to be smaller but more luxurious.
The full webinar can be viewed at https://www.theoracleconsultation.co.uk/
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