A PROSPECTIVE £160m project which will change the face of part of Bexleyheath Broadway, goes on display to the public from tomorrow.
Two developers John Laing and The Mall Corporation are competing with each other for the right to redevelop Bexley Council’s civic offices site.
The others, Tesco and Sainsbury’s decided not to submit final bids.
Tesco already has plans to redevelop the Woolwich site in Erith Road, while Sainsbury’s says it still has “a strong desire” to improve its presence in Bexleyheath.
The remaining two companies have produced contrasting proposals.
John Laing’s development is confined within the boundaries of the civic offices site and comprises a two-storey 13,500 sq m supermarket with an entrance off the current Highland Road, and a small public square.
Parking for 300 cars would be provided underneath the supermarket.
The second element of the development is a six-storey glass office block whose walls would widen out from the base as it grows higher, and which would house the new council offices, contact centre and civic suite.
The Mall Corporation already owns the leasehold on The Mall shopping centre and has bought a long lease on the adjacent Broadway Square, although the council still owns the freehold.
Because it already has a substantial presence in the town, its proposals are more far-reaching.
It proposes to extend the existing shopping mall across the Broadway Square car park in two-storeys of retail units with the council’s offices above.
It then hopes to redevelop the current magistrates’ court site with a large circular building housing the council’s civic suite on the fourth and fifth floors, a new public library on the third floor and a leisure and event space on the second floor.
The rest of the site stretching towards the Marriott Hotel, will comprise a two-storey department store with a further eight storeys of homes above.
Altogether the scheme would provide more than 28,000 sq m of retail space and 800 car parking spaces, as well as a new triangular public square which would incorporate the existing Highland Road.
The magistrates’ court would be relocated onto the current Central Library site in Townley Road.
Both schemes also include improvements to The Broadway.
Laings anticipates construction would be complete towards the end of 2012 while The Mall project would not be finished until 2013.
Undertaking a mammoth redevelopment scheme is the current enconomic situation is “quite a big risk” conceded Bexley councillor Colin Campbell.
Councillors will take a decision in May, after listening to the public’s views.
He said in the current circumstances it was going to be a huge leap of faith, by both the chosen company and the council.
Cllr Campbell, cabinet member for finance and corporate affairs, said the project was a “once in a generation decision “.
He said if both schemes were considered too risky, the council could build its own new civic building.
But then Bexley would have to find the cash itself, lose the opportunity for a massive regeneration project and end up with a half-empty council-owned site.
Chief executive Will Tuckley said the situation was constantly being re-evaluated to make sure the sums still add up.
The council says new accommodation for its staff will enable it to streamline the way it offers services, with people able to talk to staff face-to-face in contact centres all over the borough, on the telephone or online, and council office space has been considerably reduced.
The public exhibition of the plans will be in the town centre, near the clocktower, until Saturday and people will be invited to fill in a questionnaire giving their views .
People can also give their responses online until March 25.