WORK has already begun on building a new future for the Red Lion Quarter in Spalding – while one councillor insists the project is still a “blinding success”.
The £6.5million centre has been widely criticised since South Holland District Council had to step in with a £138,000 rescue package.
The bail out involved clearing debts held by the Community Interest Company set up to run the Red Lion Quarter and ending its tenure in charge as well as shutting the food court, which had been losing money.
A steering group set up to shape the future of the building has now had its first meeting and ten companies are said to be bidding to run it – with an open day planned to show them around and see what ideas they have.
Coun Nick Worth, chairman of the steering group, said: “We are going to encourage as much innovation as possible – they can come up with ideas and we can take the best ideas and go back to them with suggestions.
“I am interested to see what people come to us and what their vision might be. I am quite excited about this going forward, particularly because there has been so much interest.”
The steering group also contains district councillors Malcolm Chandler, Christine Lawton, Bryan Alcock, a member of Lincolnshire County Council, a Chamber of Commerce representative and a representative of the land’s former owner, Fen Properties.
Grant funding was secured on the basis that the building contains an education provider and brings jobs to the area – but councillors would still like to embrace the “food heritage” theme in some form.
Coun Howard Johnson, one of the directors of the Community Interest Company that was formerly in charge of running the centre, said that next year he expects the food court to be open and helping the centre to boost the town’s fortunes.
Coun Johnson said: “There’s no doubt that if you come back in 12 months that the shop will be up and running and someone will be selling foodstuffs albeit in a totally different format.
“When you look at the Red Lion Quarter and picture what it was like two years ago it’s actually a blinding success. We have got a restaurant on the ground floor which is well used, Boston College on the middle floor which is heaving with people and the top floor now has offices being let.
“The one thing that was wrong was not really the concept of the shop but the way it was set up. People were asking all along ‘Where’s the wow factor?’”