An event to announce Sir Robert McAlpine as main contractor for phase two of Station Hill was postponed last week – but its significance should not be lost.
Instead of the town’s great and good celebrating this decisive moment together, it happened quietly while our interview went ahead online.
But nonetheless, after 20 years, Station Hill is coming down the tracks.
The event would have effectively been the launch of the main, most visible, section of the biggest development in Reading for decades. Speaking to the team on a laptop didn’t feel quite as it would in-person but it was clear those involved are buzzing about the scheme’s arrival.
Looking at the CGIs and videos published over many months, it is still quite difficult to imagine the transformation. Many of the young who will likely work in the new offices would not have been born when Station Hill redevelopment was first mooted. Just trying to imagine a 275,000 sq ft office building in Reading town centre is quite a task.
But the buildings are only part of it. It was clear from our discussion, the areas in between them will be just as important. A carefully-designed through route will offer regular events, and public art, along with carefully chosen retailers, no doubt intended to tempt those passing through to stay a bit longer.
For those of us old enough to have been reporting on the development of The Oracle, it’s reminiscent of that period. Hammerson’s commercial director at the time, Simon Mesquita, remarked, prior to its opening, that he felt the people of Reading probably didn’t realise what was about to be unleashed upon them.
At Station Hill you get a similar feeling. No amount of images and videos can really get across how such a big scheme will look and feel. And, since there is flexibility in the third phase, no-one can really know.
But it’s definitely better than the two decades we spent wondering if it will ever happen.
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