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Newcastle’s The Gate: creating the future of leisure and retail

We know all too well that the retail sector is undergoing a period of transformation, but whether that means decline or rebirth seems to depend increasingly on the vision of a brand or store in question. Yes, shopping habits are changing, rendering many tricks of retail past irrelevant and unproductive, but we’re seeing new innovators and fast-moving incumbents take steps to get ahead of the curve. Familiar shopping centre and leisure brands are highly exposed to these challenges but, equally, by leveraging their large estates in the right way they can create a major advantage in a changing landscape.

The Gate is a retail and leisure complex situated in central Newcastle, which originally opened in 2002. It now plays host to 19 venues including nine food and drink outlets and five unique leisure activities including increasingly popular activity: escape rooms. With 18.65m tourists visiting Newcastle & Gateshead in 2018, a 3.5% increase from 2017[1], the Gate has had to rethink its offering to remain a popular destination for a broad range of visitors.

TFT has been lucky enough to be part of the transformation of The Gate, Newcastle, since it has been in the hands of investors The Crown Estate. As lead building consultant, we’re supporting its reinvigoration as a modern leisure destination by incorporating new and unique features to position it as a one-of-a-kind destination.

Jake Honor, project lead and Associate at TFT said:

“Since our involvement commenced on site in 2013, we have seen a shift in the retail and leisure market to becoming a much more challenging environment for landlords and tenants alike. We have also seen individual tenants more and more determined to overcome these challenges and best position themselves with a unique market offering.”

With several vacant units at the start of the 2019, it was all hands-on deck to achieve a complete makeover over the last 12 months. The transformations are clearly oriented towards a new generation of entertainment, including Cineworld’s first 4DX cinema in the North East which boasts ‘extreme sensory cinema’ capable of simulating effects like water, wind, scent, strobe lighting and motion to put you in the middle of the action. It was the largest project to date at The Gate at a value of £7m. But that’s not the only immersive entertainment on offer, with one of the largest gaming and virtual reality entertainment centre in the UK, YuMe, and The WonderBar and Mayfair Pub & Kitchen which offers guests interactive multiplayer darts tournaments, live music, sports events and more.

The 220,000sq ft retail wonderland is now able to set itself apart from its competitors by combining forward-thinking market insight and a readiness to adapt for a changing leisure sector. Supporting this transformation, TFT provided proactive and technically informed advice to ensure that the works would achieve the vision of The Crown Estate and the expectations of The Gate’s many future visitors. As more venues appraise the potential of a new generation of retail, leisure, or perhaps more accurately a hybrid of the two, the specifics of how such projects are carried out could be a deciding factor in their long-term viability.

Our projects and work streams for the site have been diverse; ranging from large scale full common area refurbishment work to individual unit enabling works, dilapidations and fit-out reviews, which has covered multiple TFT offices, disciplines and skill matrix’s.”

It is no secret that there is a high street crisis in the UK and the decline in shoppers is at a growing rate, but do experience-led retail offerings promise to reverse this loss? The Global Wellness Institute have reported that fitness and wellbeing industry sales have been thriving as more and more health-conscious individuals are making efforts to incorporate fitness into their daily regimes. Similarly, we are seeing more funding going into inclusive leisure activities for a wider customer profile, including disabled, elderly and young consumers.

“Looking forward we see significant potential for growth in the North East, with key infrastructure programmes rolled out with this family-friendly leisure centre paving the way for the sector, proving to be the best in its class.”

If you need a team of consultants with retail and leisure experience, and deep understanding of building materials and systems which those sectors demand, get in touch with us, we’d love to hear about your challenges.

To get in touch with Jake Honor, click here.

TFT’s involvement in the 2019 upgrades to The Gate included:

MAP Works: Project Management, Principal Designer & M&E services for The Crown Estate to replace sections of the main roof, the air handling units and provided a building management system and fire alarm upgrade works for the centre. 

Empire to Cineworld Refurbishment: Fit out review and monitoring of £7m refurbishment of the whole second floor level at The Gate to convert the old Empire cinema into Cineworld.

Sam Jacks to Mayfair Refurbishment: Fit out review and monitoring exercise of G10 fit out for new bar area.

Tiger Tiger to Eden Refurbishment: Fit out review, cost consultancy and monitoring of G11 fit out of new restaurant and bar area.

Bar Beyond to Wonderbar Refurbishment: Fit out review and monitoring of G5 to create the new Wonderbar from the former Bar Beyond.

Handmade Burger and Vacate unit F4 to YuMe Refurbishment:Landlord enabling works to facilitate YuMe occupation. Fit out review of YuMe to create one of the largest virtual reality units in the UK.

General Building Surveyor Roles:Maintenance Action Plan (MAP) for the next 10-years’ worth of maintenance works. Dilapidations of various units. Further feasibility appraisals for proposed projects.


[1] Major Events Help Tourism Grow In Newcastle and Gateshead. UMi. 2019.