Multi-million-pound revamp of town centre

Construction work in the Vancouver Quarter – Photo by Nick Downey, Highpics

An exciting multi-million-pound revamp is taking place in in the heart of King’s Lynn.

A vibrant new shopping area will be opened up on a site formerly occupied by Beales department store, helping to further improve the shopping experience in the historic market town.

Following the demise of the Beales store, the Vancouver centre’s owners (a consortium led by retail specialist LAP in joint partnership with the Borough council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk) engaged leading retail architects The Colman Partnership to design a modern replacement of the Beales store to raise the profile of the Vancouver Quarter.

The existing building did not meet with current design requirements for national store users and so the decision was taken to completely demolish the existing ’70s building and design two-storey retail units with a main 1,867m² unit.

H&M visual by Colman Architects

H&M has taken the lease for the large unit and the two-storey curtain walling entrance promotes both floors of retail space onto Baxter’s Plain. As well as H&M, the £3.8m project will also create four smaller retail units, ranging between 149m² and 533m². To lead shoppers towards Baxter’s plain, a projecting crown over sails the elevations of the principle unit.

Following a tendering process, Lynn-based company Chalcroft was appointed to bring this much needed addition to the Vancouver Quarter to fruition.

Work commenced with the demolition of the former Beales building soon after the site hoardings were erected. The bricks from the former store were regraded and recycled. The close proximity of the site to neighbouring businesses and the public meant that Chalcroft’s expertise in live site working came to the fore and close liaison has been vital. A section of floor connecting to the adjacent Iceland store will be incorporated into the new building for structural reasons.

Once the site was cleared, a number of investigations were carried out on the existing utility services and underground structures, with some services, including water, gas, electricity, sewerage and high-speed cables, being diverted. The drainage diversion had to be done at night so as not to disrupt the town centre and a temporary roadway through the construction site enabled emergency services to access the shopping precinct, should it be necessary. When the pedestrian area was re-opened by 5am each morning, the area had been resurfaced and normal service resumed during the day.

Chalcroft has now moved on to the piling, foundations and steelwork phase. The continuous flight auger piling system has been used so as to minimise vibration through the ground and keep noise to a minimum. This type of piling is when a special drill is driven into the ground and then, as it is removed, concrete is injected into the hole. Steel is then inserted to reinforce the concrete.

Chalcroft Operations Director, Andrew Hardy commented: “We’ve worked on a number of retail projects before but the location of this site within a pedestrianised precinct means that careful planning has gone into managing access to the area. A dedicated site supervisor controls pre-arranged material delivery to site, and communication with the public and our neighbours is key.”

He added: “We’re proud to be playing our part in an important project that will help to bring more people into King’s Lynn, where our Head Office is based.”

Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk Cabinet Member for Corporate Projects and Assets, Cllr Alistair Beales, said: “Having a vibrant town centre, is vital for the local economy. This development is something we were keen to support as it will be the catalyst to regenerate this part of the town centre, building on our investments in the bus station, car parks and heritage assets. We are pleased that a local company is bringing this project to life and look forward to welcoming H & M to town.”

H&M is due to open Spring 2019.