Independent retailers line up for space at St Catherine’s Place in Bedminster

A range of independent Bristol retailers and a gym operator are now in discussions about taking space in Bedminster’s £5M revamped St Catherine’s Place Shopping Centre as the Bedminster Business Improvement District (BID) team publicly backs the revised plans.

Award-winning, artisan bakery Bristol Loaf, which operates a highly successful café bakery in Redfield, has confirmed its interest in opening a second outlet in the newly refurbished shopping centre. Discussions are also underway with a local food retailer, an independent Bristol-based coffee shop group, local delicatessen operators and a well-known gym operator, marking an unusually high level of retail interest ahead of planning approval.

Bedminster BID, which represents 350 local businesses, has also expressed its strong support for the proposals, which include a new £3M three-screen cinema with a café-bar, run by independent Scott Cinemas, owner of the popular Orpheus Cinema in Henleaze, making the area a fantastic destination as well as a great place to live, shop and work.

The proposals for the major regeneration scheme at St Catherine’s Place in Bedminster are for a mixed-use development creating over 200 much-needed new homes, together with new shops and leisure facilities, all within an attractive, high quality public environment.

The existing shopping arcade, which is run-down and with several vacant units, will be re-organised and upgraded with new shop frontages and a new central public square. There will also be new leisure space introduced at street level.

The owner of the site, local developer Firmstone is aiming to create an attractive, vibrant new place which will act as a focal point for local and nearby communities and will kick-start the wider regeneration of East Street and the wider Bedminster area.

Simon Dicken, chairman of the Bedminster Business Improvement District, says:

“This redevelopment will mark the start of an exciting evolution for Bedminster and the surrounding area. St Catherine’s Place Shopping Centre has been an unloved space in Bedminster with unrealised potential for many years. Firmstone’s £5M plans promise a new lease of life to both businesses and the community along with vital new homes which the council would freely acknowledge are needed in a central location in Bristol to ensure sustainability now and into the future.

“The exciting development will also support the growth of the creative and technology sectors using this vibrant and unique centre as a preferred location as opposed to distant office parks.

“Now is the time to act to safeguard the future of East Street which has suffered greatly in recent years and the wider area. This proposed development offers much needed investment and regeneration at a time when we are becoming less reliant on traditional transport – instead moving towards ‘urban village’ living – as we’re already seeing in London and other major cities.

“This development could be the first step in transforming the area and the addition of the independent cinema is a real game changer for the evening economy in particular, given the street currently goes from quiet to quite literally dead by mid-afternoon particularly in winter.”

Firmstone plans to invest £5M in refurbishing the shopping centre, which currently has several vacant units – including injecting £1.5M into the new cinema – as part of its proposed £50M redevelopment of the site. Scott Cinemas is set to invest an additional £1.5M in the cinema and expects it to attract similar numbers of customers as its Henleaze Orpheus cinema – about 145,000 a year – from the local community. Firmstone will also invest a further £1.2 million into the local community through Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) contributions.

So far Firmstone has created 54 new apartments in Catherine’s House, which was formerly an office building, and is part of the wider St Catherine’s Place scheme. Prices started at £158k and the homes are now fully sold and occupied by their new owners – over three quarters of whom were already local to the Bedminster area. The external appearance of the building, which had long been an issue with the local community, has been upgraded with a new modern residential façade.

Firmstone’s wider plans for St Catherine’s Place form the gateway to Bedminster Green, a major regeneration area in south Bristol. A framework has been agreed by all the developers involved in Bedminster Green and endorsed by Bristol City Council to guide development there, with the potential for the area to deliver around 2,000 new homes.

Francis Firmstone, director of local developers Firmstone added:

“We are delighted to have the support of hundreds of Bedminster-based businesses who can clearly see the enormous advantages and investment this large-scale regeneration project will offer.

“The level of interest from Bristol-based food and drink retailers and operators – particularly at this early stage ahead of planning approval – shows just how much potential and excitement there is about a newly refurbished shopping centre and the regeneration of Bedminster as a whole.

“St Catherine’s Place has struggled to thrive for many years. Our proposals will protect this vital community asset and boost the whole of Bedminster – helping to keep local spend in the area, as well as providing a really attractive place for people to meet and socialise.

“Whilst countless major retail brands close their doors across the country, our plans will secure the centre’s future for generations to come and act as a crucial focal point for the local community as well as attracting new people to visit – bringing significant economic investment.”

The revised application for the redevelopment of St Catherine’s Place is expected to be decided on by Bristol City Council in November.