Changes due as Galleries looks to future

July 25 2022

Galleries looking towards Quakers Friars

Galleries looking towards Quakers Friars

We’ve been shopping there since 1991. It was the Galleries, then the Mall, then back to the Galleries once more, though many Bristolians just called the place ”the shops”. Now the whole shebang – all five acres worth – is to be transformed in an imaginative re-development programme that will change everything.

Yes, there will be shops, but there will also be office space, a hotel, bars, restaurants, street cafes, an open market, leisure destinations open both daytime and crucially at night. The whole area was often deserted after dark.

A multi-storey block of flats will provide some affordable homes and student living and is central to this mixed use development. 

Another radical change is that the whole complex will face Castle Park. Currently the Galleries has turned its back on the green space that is the park, say the developers, Deeley Freed, and they want to take advantage of this missed opportunity. Terraces with cafes and restaurants will now face the park, walkways will offer pedestrians a way into the complex and Broadmead beyond.

Nearly a third of the space will be given over to “high quality public realm spaces” with new open areas with opportunities for urban greening.

What’s driven this desire for change? Well, most people can see that the Galleries has been more popular in years gone by. In fact footfall has dropped off dramatically. It wasn’t just lockdown, visitor numbers have fallen to thirty five percent below the numbers visiting even before the pandemic. Stay-at-home shoppers became keener to use the internet for purchases. There has been competition from the newer Cabot Circus and all this has resulted in more vacant shops at the Galleries. Its future was challenged.

The developers are keen to point out that the shops facing Broadmead will not be affected by the changes and urge people to support all their traders in the medium term. It’s the early days of the planning phase, consultations involving the public have started and it’ll be some time before the demolition crews turn up.

Staff working there were told at the beginning of July that everything would remain as it is for two years at least. Work is planned to start in the autumn of 2024 with the new city centre opening in 2027.

Initial consultations involving the public began last month and all the consultation material will be uploaded to the website. There are feedback forms and people can register for updates at Galleriesfuture.com

The five acre site is owned by La Salle Investment Management along with Bristol City Council. The lead developer is Bristol-based Deeley Freed, working with Savills and Arup. It’ll be the biggest building project since Cabot Circus which opened 13 years ago.

A spokesman for the team describes it as a an opportunity to create a world-class, sustainable destination and  re-invigorate the centre - it’s a positive response to the ways we now live, work and shop.