Shopping centre bosses are excited at the next chapter of their history, as the new look facility begins to take shape.
Work has started on the first phase of the £5m redevelopment of The Forum Shopping Centre in Wallsend, that will deliver a brand new state-of-the-art library, community centre and extended retail services.
In partnership with North Tyneside Council, the development will bring a formerly vacant and tired building back into use both as a retail and community destination.
Centre manager Paul Smith said: “The demolition works are due to be compelted by the end of May, and then the refurbishment work will begin.
“We hope to have the three big named value shops open for October, in time for Christmas trade.
“We want to let people know what is happening and what is going on, and that we are still open for business while these improvements are carried out.”
Further plans include a new library across the first floor of the centre, and council offices on the second floor.
The centre has also gained an Amazon Locker, which makes it easier for people ordering on the online store to collect their items.
“We are only the second shopping centre outside of London to get the Amazon Locker and it is already proving really popular,” he added.
“It’s a bit of a coop for us.”
The £5m refurbishment plans, undertaken by NewRiver Retail, also include provisions for free Wi-fi across the shopping centre, and three hours free parking.
“It means people can do a number of different bits of their shopping rather than running into one shop and out again – they can do it all in the time of the free parking,” said Paul.
Plans also include a new Wallsend Market in the former InShops.
“The vision is for Wallsend market to become a vibrant market hall at the hub of the local community, offering a mix of complimentary retail uses where local businesses can thrive in an attracive and welcoming environment,” said Paul.
Allan Lockhart, property director at NewRiver Retail, said: “NewRiver is delighted to be partnering with North Tyneside Council to deliver the new library, community centre and a new retail offering to Wallsend.
“NewRiver’s strategy is customer-centric and the renovation of the vacant units demonstrates our commitment to town-centre regeneration and the improvement of The Forum Shopping Centre for the benefit of retailers and customers.”