Thursday, October 02, 2008

Another construction milestone reached

Today's Communication Focus Group gave me an opportunity to share the Faith Focus Group plan for December publicity with the professional communicators, from whom I am hoping to obtain some support. The meeting was brought forward an hour to enable people to attend the Saint David shopping centre extension topping out ceremony which followed. At the event I was quite surprised that there were no Council officers or Councillors present. I learned earlier that they were all going to be at another important meeting, so evidently there'd been a diary clash along the line somewhere. But it was a bit churlish for nobody to show up.

Those of us who did attend were greeted at the Hills Street site entrance by Steven Madley the SD1 MD and Paul Rix the construction company project director. We were escorted through the maze of corridors and up the back stairs to the first floor level service area on the roof, where the speeches were given before a small party with ceremonial spanner ascended a fifty foot scaffold staircase in order to reach the new roof level and ritually tighten in front of the cameras the final nut in the highest point of the structure.

We were then ushered indoors, into the large concrete cavern (44,000 sqmetres) of the first floor extension to the Town Wall South shopping mall, which has been redisgned to provide 16 retail units downstairs and a huge westwards extension to the Debenhams store on the first floor. Here, a long food queue waited to be served a late late lunch - or high tea, except there was no tea, only beer and champagne cocktails, to wash down the roast pig (or beef) and salad. We even had a cocktail skaer and bottle juggling barman to entertain us. The aroma of roasting in the chill dank air of the concrete cavern was amazing, tantalising.

Naturally I had a camera with me where we were taken out and about to see view the length and breadth of the extension, including looking across the void over Hills Street, soon to be bridged to provide an entrance to the new Grand Arcade shopping mall. It was good to take a peek through the partitions at the opposite end too, where just the other side of the plywood screen, hundreds of shoppers continued their business in the sections of the centre still open. The hustle and bustle the bright lights, and the sounds of heels on the newly laid Spanish paving a few metres away were a kind of surreal contrast to the dank echoing cavern, which is still in the process of being finished.

It was pleasing that the party included not only site workers, but also many of the retailers from the St David's centre. David Hughes Lewis the chair, Mark Knott of Queens Arcade and myself were there representing the Retail Partnership. Mark offered a few appreciative words to me about the recent edition of 'Capital Ideas', and its relevance, which was a great encouragement, as it's rare I get any new feedback.

One of the visitors, a retailer from Coventry was interested to know how a cleric came to be present at an event like this. I explained a little about my involvement as the Vicar of a church in the middle of the redevelopment area. This seemed like a new curiosity to him, not what he was expecting. I gueess most locals have got used to me being part of the scene by now. I still feel that I am very privileged to have this kind of opportunity to work in the world of working people, in contrast to being in a domestic zone.

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