Charter Place redevelopment: intu Watford could extend evening opening hours (From Watford Observer)
Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting WO to 80360, or upload here
Charter Place redevelopment: intu Watford could extend evening opening hours
The redevelopment of Charter Place could afford intu Watford the opportunity to extend its operations later into the evening, according to its manager.
Howard Oldstein, the general manager, said the addition of an IMAX cinema and restaurants in the £100 million revamp of the centre will make the centre and surrounding area busier in the evenings.
As a result intu was talking with its retailers about extending evening hours to compliment the future set-up.
Currently the centre shuts down around 6pm on weekdays apart from Thursday, which is the only late trading day.
In an interview, Mr Oldstein said the Charter Place development meant the centre would become "destination" for people and families looking for a day out or evening entertainment rather than just a shopping trip.
He said: "There is an opportunity for the shops to open up later, which we will look at for obvious reasons. If you are going to become that sort of destination you have got to be able to open up your hours longer.
"And of course when the cinema comes on board you could be looking at anything up to one or two o’clock in the morning (for its opening hours), theoretically if you look at how other cinemas work.
"So you have got to be able to have things open later for obvious reasons. Intu Watford becomes an extension so therefore so it does not mean we are going to run everything until 11 or 12 o’clock. You’d have your restaurants open until 11 or 12 o’clock possibly as that is the bog standard norm.
"From a retail perspective you would need to increase the hours, but not to that level. It could be 9pm it could be 8pm but that is something we need to look with our retailers because we are now becoming that destination."
In February Watford Council granted permission for intu to knock down the aging Charter Place centre and replace it with a new three-storey building.
The council owns Charter Place, but signed a long lease on it with intu last year. A similar arrangement exists for the Harlequin end of the centre.
The centrepiece of the new Charter Place development, which will become an extension of intu Watford when finished, is the 450-seat IMAX cinema. It will also have larger shopping units and a range of restaurants.
Mr Oldstein said the centre was currently exploring other leisure elements to add to the new development to make it a place that will attract more people to the centre for longer.
He said: "We are looking at all different types of leisure activities. Whether that be family entertainment in respect of soft play areas, whether that be bowling alleys, whether it be laser, there is a whole raft of leisure element that we exploring at the moment.
"We have not made a financial decision yet. But from a cinema point of view, that is the catalyst. We will throw everything off against it.
Mr Oldstein later added: "We want to make this a destination rather than a convenience. The key for me is that we want people to stay here longer. We want people to enjoy retail, enjoy leisure, and food and everything that goes with it. So it’s a much fuller package."
Watford Council is currently in the process of executing legal agreements with existing businesses in Charter Place and demolition work is due to start next year.
As part of the scheme Watford Market is moving to a new site behind TJ Hughes in The Parade.
The new Charter Place development is scheduled to open in late November 2017.
Mr Oldstein said his team were also looking at a programme of improvements to the Harlequin end to reflect that the two old centres would be a single entity in intu Watford.
The general manager, who took the helm at the centre in September, said that the Charter Place project also had wider implications for the town. When the development is finished it will mean intu Watford is one of the largest in-town shopping centres in the county.
Mr Oldstein said the new enlarged centre would help attract more people to Watford.
He added: "I think the thing about Watford is that it is brand in itself and we need to sell it as a brand. Not us personally at intu, but the council needs to sell it as a brand.
"Everyone associates Watford with being Watford Gap or Watford FC and Watford gap is nowhere near here.
"So from that point of view we need to be able to say to people why would you go to Harrow, which is not a brand it’s a destination, why would you go to Brent Cross, which is potentially a brand.
"Come to Watford as we have all this diverse range of business, great rail links, and bus links and that stuff which most in-town destinations don’t have."
Comments are closed on this article.