Shoppers have got a glimpse of the first phase of the £95m Wokingham regeneration project, with some of the hoardings at Peach Place removed.
With all the scaffolding due to be taken down at the end of July, the new facade fronting Rose Street and Market Place has also been unveiled, saying goodbye to the 1960s overhang.
The flats above the shops were demolished and rebuilt – including a new lift – with seven homes due to go on the market in early July.
Cllr Philip Mirfin, executive member for regeneration at Wokingham Borough Council, said: “We have had some reaction from some individuals, you can’t please everyone. I think the design is more than okay for the town.
“I think the frontage is really good, it’s more modern than other parts of the town. We’re working with a 1960s building, which has its constraints.
“I think it’s a nice, clean frontage. It’s very good and blends in well with what’s there.” However, some of the News’s readers disagree, with Alex Lewis saying: “Wow a white wall with windows ... shoppers will flock to Wokingham now!” Daniel Paul Brambley questioned the colour choice, speculating that the white front would get dirty fairly soon. However, some were in favour of the new look, with Milton Lambkin saying: “I worked on the demolition of what was up there before. Trust me, it’s an improvement.” Meanwhile, the borough council agreed last Thursday to spend £1.5m on a retail site it considers “crucial” to the regeneration.
Cllr Mirfin said: “I’m delighted, it’s a unique piece of property.” The council said it could not confirm the location because of commerical confidentiality. However, the News understands the site covers what is now The Redan pub and Haka takeaway in Peach Street.
Cllr Mirfin confirmed the new foodstore included in plans to redevelop part of Elms Field was being significantly scaled back after Sainsbury’s pulled out of a deal in April.
He said: “It’s more than likely we will still have a car park but it won’t be underground.
“Sainsbury’s was looking at a 60,000 sq ft space, the people we’re talking to now are looking for half that.” He said there was now scope to look at improving the amenity space at Elms Field. The planning applications for the planned developments at Elms Field and Peach Place – withdrawn last year, to review some design aspects – should be resubmitted before the end of the year.