The Piece Hall transformation: In part four of our focus on the Piece Hall transformation, shopkeepers Janet Smith and Jon Hoyle, from The Friendly Dragon, examine the effect on them
When the plan for development of the Piece Hall was first announced, we were worried.
We are a family business, we have been here for seven and a half years and this is our livelihood.
What would be best for us is to carry on as we are but you can see that the Piece Hall needs major work to keep it alive.
At the very first meeting we had about the development, about two and a half years ago, we were just in shock at the thought of it being closed for two years.
Over the last 18 months the plans seem to have changed a little bit to more of a compromise between the council and the shopkeepers.
They’ve been having meetings with us, which is a step in the right direction, because at first it was like we didn’t matter at all – we seemed to be just an inconvenience.
Whereas now, after shopkeepers raising issues to the council, we feel we have a voice that’s being heard.
When this was first talked about we were very shocked to be told that they were going to close the Piece Hall down for the whole of the redevelopment.
The latest proposals are to do the northern half first and the southern half second. We’ve been told all the shops will be moved into the half that isn’t being worked on, which has to be better.
The secret to keeping the Piece Hall going after the development and making it successful for the future is to focus on promotion, marketing and events.
They need to be well-planned and well-promoted events throughout the year – as many as possible.
Not all events are going to be good for everybody but a mixture throughout the year would be ideal.
There is still another 18 months to go before they close the Piece Hall to start this work, if the bid is successful, so it’s time to get things started while they still have an opportunity to get events on.
Let’s have some events on in the meantime and make people enthusiastic about the place before the work gets under way otherwise after two years of work we might have been forgotten.
They are offering packages and negotiating with shopkeepers on a one-to-one basis so hopefully we can all find a way to survive.
But this is still going to have a big impact and we are very worried about the upheaval.
Westgate was horrendous when they were putting that up and businesses did suffer but now it is fantastic and it has attracted new shops.
The theme for us is compromise. We will do our best to adapt and we are reasonably calm with the challenges ahead.
We have had an absolutely fantastic life for the last seven and a half years in a personal, social and business sense and we hope it will continue into the future.