City folk overjoyed by £1.5m food hall plan in empty restaurant
- Credit: Maya Derrick
News of a redevelopment which will turn a former city centre restaurant into a market-style food hall has been welcomed with open arms by the people of Norwich.
Jamie's Italian in the Royal Arcade opened in 2012 and closed just seven years later.
Now the site, which has been gathering dust ever since, is set to open this summer following a £1.5 million investment.
Joy Chilvers from Trowse, although not a frequent visitor to Norwich city centre, welcomed the news of the regeneration of the former site.
She hopes that the investment will breathe a new life into the historic Royal Arcade, while preserving its late 19th century features.
She said: "I'd love to go there to meet some friends and socialise.
"This is a beautiful city. I've lived around here for about 15 years but this news makes me want to come into the city centre more often.
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"I love coming to the city, especially for a bargain. This way I can support some local independent businesses."
The venue aims to be a premium destination where visitors will find a range of food and retail stalls spread across the two floor - with a focus on backing independent business.
Frequent visitor of the Royal Arcade Gemma Louisa Payne, of Sadler Road in Hellesdon, visits the thoroughfare for breakfast every morning .
She said: "It's lovely to hear something new is coming to Norwich. Especially as we come out of the pandemic it's something that's cheerful and wonderful.
"You'll be able to eat and drink and come out. I'll absolutely be visiting when it opens.
"There'll be loads of new places I can try. It'd be nice to have something new and eye-catching.
"It's not just good for me, it's good for the whole city."
Although the plans are still in their early stages the vision will be brought to life by the team behind the Mysabar.
Gordon and Eileen Dye, 80 and 72, have lived in the Norwich area their entire lives.
Seeing the arcade - and Norwich on the whole - change so much in that time, the couple expressed how excited they are to see this new redevelopment have a positive impact on the city they've called home for decades.
Eileen said: "We went to Jamie's when it was open, and it was such a shame when it shut."
"It's lovely in the arcade and this will bring energy and breathe some new life into it."
Gordon echoed: "It's important to preserve it."
Gérard Goulé lives in the centre of the city, and passes through the arcade on a regular basis.
He said: "I was just thinking how closed it all is. I remember back when everything was occupied.
"I've lived here for 20 years, so hearing new life is coming to the Royal Arcade is welcome news. It's sad that's it's empty as this should be a flagship part of our city.
"Hopefully this will help restore it. It's criminal that it's empty."
Andy Newman, Evening News food columnist, added: "They've mentioned Seven Dials Market as inspiration, which it's my favourite part of London, so if they can recreate that I think that'd be really brilliant for Norwich.
"There's an opportunity for lots of local food producers to actually have a city centre retail presence. It's generally pretty expensive around there. So anything that allows them to be in our city centre is really good.
"The ability for producers to meet their customers face-to-face and build a relationship with them, rather than via another retailer, I think is really positive.
"To have a food court where you can sit down will be a real asset. There's an appetite for it.
"We have a load of food festivals in Norwich, and that's usually the only chance producers have to interact with their customers. So if you're going to be able to do that all year round, it'll be great. Not just for us, but for tourism as well."