Landmark leisure destination forges ahead as build programme enters final phase

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Building work is on track at Forge Island as the flagship development enters the final months of construction ahead of opening to the public towards the end of summer 2024.

The new landmark destination, which will bring a much-needed family-friendly offer to Rotherham as part of Rotherham Council’s regeneration vision for the town centre, is being delivered in partnership with the Council, nationwide placemaker Muse and contractor Bowmer + Kirkland.

Work began on site in November 2022 and construction has continued at pace, with all topping out milestones due to be reached early this year on the cinema, Travelodge hotel and restaurant buildings – set to house a mix of independent eateries. Once construction completes at the end of spring, the tenants will fit out their premises ready for the scheme opening.

Local resident, 30-year-old Sam Clarkson, whose apartment overlooks Forge Island, said: “We’re on the seventh floor so we have a bird’s eye view of the development; all of a sudden it seems to have sprung up out of nowhere. I’m getting married this year and we have 400 guests coming, and having a trusted name like Travelodge that everyone knows on our doorstep is really great. Hopefully the development will have a domino effect and help put money back into other local businesses by bringing footfall into the town centre. It will give people more choice socially and bring more people in from other areas.”

Together with Rotherham Markets, the improvements are a key part of Rotherham Council’s large-scale regeneration plans aimed at breathing new life into the heart of the borough.

Rotherham Council’s Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy Denise Lelliott said; “These developments form the main cornerstones of the council’s multi-million-pound investment in Rotherham’s future. A number of major milestones have been achieved at Forge Island over the last 12 months, including the installation of a new pedestrian bridge, which connects to the town centre and which nods to the town’s rich engineering heritage and is inspired by the world-famous Bailey Bridge designed by Rotherham-born civil engineer, Donald Bailey, during the Second World War. Thousands of local people also discovered more about the past, present and future of Forge Island at a dedicated marquee at the Rotherham Show in September.”

Last year, two giant cranes erected on site were named ‘Rotherham Rainbow’ and ‘Steely Crane’ by pupils at the local Thornbury Primary school following a ‘crane naming’ competition which received more than 70 entries. The cranes were dismantled last month as construction work nears completion, but children from the school were recently invited back to the site for a special ‘time capsule’ ceremony which saw books, school uniform, glasses and colourful drawings added to specially made capsule now buried on site.

Raife Gale, Senior Development Manager at Muse, said: “Developing a transformational scheme of this scale always comes with its challenges – not least the difficulties of building on an ‘island’ surrounded by water – so the fact we’ve remained on track is a testament to the hard work of the whole project team. It’s fantastic to see the impact Forge Island has already made on the town centre skyline, and we can’t wait for the community to come and enjoy all that it has to offer when it opens.”

Construction work on the £47m Forge Island scheme – which was announced as 100% let in October 2022 – is led by contractor Bowmer + Kirkland, working alongside the wider project team which also includes Arup, Helm Consulting, Arcadis and re-form Landscape Architecture. The new pedestrian bridge was designed by FaulknerBrowne Architects.

Forge Island website

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