And in the end, it was the coronavirus pandemic, which helped to get the scheme over the starting line amid fears for the future of retailing.
The local council has agreed to continue with funding gambling that the retail and leisure scheme will become a catalyst for post-Covid-19 recovery, creating jobs and driving economic growth.
Part of Chester’s One City Plan, Chester Northgate is set to open in early 2022.
The scheme will include an arched arcade from the former library frontage into a new public square, an indoor market hall – relocated from the Forum, a six-screen cinema, cafes and restaurants, co-working office spaces and a multi-storey car park to replace the Market car park which will close once Northgate is completed.
Garry Bowker, northwest regional director for Vinci Construction UK, said: “Despite the challenges of working during this pandemic, we are doing all we can to ensure our staff, contractors and suppliers can work efficiently and safely; we are extremely excited about starting on site and seeing the Northgate scheme come to fruition so that we can play our part in helping to boost the local economy.”
Councillor Stuart Parker, Conservative group committee member of the Northgate Members Working Group, said: “Having seen a number of proposed schemes for Northgate come and go over the past 20 years, it is especially pleasing to see work at last starting. The scheme has cross-party support due to the crucial role Northgate can play in our post Covid-19 recovery.”