Preston’s plush new market hall is set to take shoppers up-market, trading tripe and turnips for deli dishes and artisan breads.
And when the doors of the “glass box” open on February 12, the city council insists it will be an exciting new experience for customers and stallholders alike - both day and night.
“We are trying to introduce continental flair into Preston heritage,” said Adrian Phillips, the authority’s director of environment and the project lead.
“It will be a vibrant, food-led offer. We will be moving away from the traditional market that works from 8 until 4 to something that has a far longer day and meets modern retail requirements.”
The council and its contractors Conlon Construction proudly threw open the doors of the new building to the media yesterday to offer a flavour of what the market hall will look like when it starts trading in just under three months.
The vast structure, which only just fits underneath the larger of the city’s two refurbished canopies, will house up to 30 stalls, compared to the 70-plus in the old market hall next door.
At least three-quarters of the traders going into the new building will be selling food - butchers, bakers, fishmongers, cheese and fruit and veg.
On the corners there will be stalls for eating in or taking out, including Caribbean and possibly Asian. There will also be a craft beer bar run by the Guild Ale House on nearby Lancaster Road.
“This is going to be a wonderful place,” said Adrian Phillips. “The market canopies are Victorian engineering at its finest and we are bringing 21st century architecture that supports that.
“With coloured LED lighting in the roof of the canopy it will be spectacular both day and night.”
Michael Conlon, chairman of Conlon Construction, added: “Our aim as contractors has always been to turn into reality the client’s and architect’s dream. When we saw the drawings and what it was going to be like I thought it looked really good.
“In Altrincham the market was run down and 30 per cent of the shops in the town were shut. What the council did there by investing in their market has resulted in people flooding into the town centre. It has lifted all the shops around it.
“If this project can help the council here in raising the city in general and the local economy then it’s got to be a good thing.
“It’s been great for us to be involved in this and it’s fantastic that the city council has got a bit of vision.”
The new market hall was originally scheduled to open at the start of December. But traders asked to spend one final Christmas in the old market and so they will move across on February 12.
Demolition of the old market hall, built in 1973, is expected to start in the spring.
Preston Council leader Peter Rankin was a proud man as he toured the city’s new market hall yesterday.
Even though all the stalls are not yet in place and there is plenty of work still to do, the man who pushed hard for a new state of the art building to replace the 44-year-old old indoor market admitted: “It’s fantastic.
“We wanted to get it right for the traders because we appreciate how good they are. It is a big move and so we have worked closely with them.
“We made a decision fairly early on about focusing on a food market. Originally we were thinking it would be all food, but then we changed that to 75 per cent.
“There will be different ranges of food, eating in and take out. For instance we have got a Caribbean business coming in.
“But obviously we also represent the council taxpayers and we have to get it right for them as well. This is all costing the best part of £5m and it is a big ambition for us as a council.
“There is a huge amount going on in the city centre and we are very keen to see this regeneration.
“The hotel in the old Post Office is coming on now and there are lots of other things happening. It’s an exciting time for Preston.”
ANOTHER JIGSAW PIECE
The new market hall is just one piece of a regeneration jigsaw which should leave Preston city centre looking as pretty as a picture in the next few years.
A new leisure complex is expected to be built next door once the old market hall and its multi-storey car park are demolished, starting in the spring.
Adjacent is an area called Starch House Square, in front of the Market Tavern, which is currently being reflagged and will be re-opening in February.
Both historic market canopies have been refurbished to return them to their former glory. And next door is the old Post Office which is currently being turned into a swish boutique hotel.
With the renovation of the city’s bus station, the building of a multi-million pound youth zone adjacent to it, the re-birth of the Guild Hall entertainment complex, the relaying of the entire length of Fishergate and part of Church Street and a project to upgrade the historic Winckley Square Gardens, Preston is undergoing its biggest transformation for almost half a century.