Evolution strong in town centre as Ipswich 'seen as open for business'

Menus for The Botanist with inset photo of Penn Commercial director Vanessa Penn

There could be bigger opportunities for leisure and entertainment as town centre use evolves, Penn Commercial boss Vanessa Penn says - Credit: Archant / Penn Commercial

The arrival of new leisure and entertainment offerings in the town centre shows that Ipswich is seen as 'open for business', according to a leading commercial estate agent. 

In April alone a number of new businesses have opened their doors in Ipswich, including The Botanist, Boom Battle Bar and La Cueva.

The Boom Battle bar in Ipswich is open. Axe throwing, Mini Golf and virtual darts. PICTURE: CHARLOTT

Note the airborne axe - Credit: Charlotte Bond

Ipswich Central took to social media on April 29 to highlight the excitement these new arrivals bring to the town, tweeting: "It's been an exciting couple of months for Ipswich with new businesses choosing to open in our town. 

"These new arrivals are a reminder that the town centre is far from dead - it is evolving." 

Data from Centre for Cities recorded up until the end of March shows that footfall has returned to pre-pandemic levels, although the spending habits of those in Ipswich town centre has fallen slightly; people are spending less per trip than they were before February 2020.

Shoppers have returned to Ipswich high street but are spending less money than they were before the pandemic

Shoppers have returned to Ipswich high street but are spending less money than they were before the pandemic, a Centre for Cities study has shown - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

The changing use of town centres can be attributed to the pandemic, as redundant office space and long-vacant retail units are converted to residential accommodation - but Ipswich-based estate agency Penn Commercial says this could be an opportunity for the high street. 

Vanessa Penn, managing director, said of the evolution: "This presents an opportunity for the high street to provide more of a leisure and entertainment offering, as town centres will become the focus of activity for the growing numbers of residents living within them.  

Most Read

"Just this week, Ipswich has seen the opening of Boom Battle Bar in The Buttermarket, offering a range of leisure activities new to the town, from axe-throwing to beer pong, and Geek Retreat in Upper Brook Street is reporting impressive demand.

Vanessa Penn, managing director of Penn Commercial

Vanessa Penn, managing director of Penn Commercial, says there are opportunities for leisure in Ipswich town centre - Credit: Penn Commercial

"Whilst retail is experiencing challenging times, we are seeing a number of new requirements coming forward, and we are actively marketing over 10 retail premises within the town, in a range of locations and sizes.  

"Prime retail space can be sourced at very preferential rates, which has led to some businesses that have been established for a while in secondary locations taking full advantage and relocating, as well as new businesses setting up, such as the Eggfree Cake Box and Waffle and More franchises moving into Carr Street.  

"The relaxation of the planning regulations under Class E is also assisting with the repurposing of older units.

General Manager of The Botanist, Emily Palmer.

General manager of The Botanist, Emily Palmer - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

"We are proud to have introduced The Botanist's parent company, The New World Trading Co., to Ipswich Borough Council in 2021, and we believe that this new venture in the heart of Ipswich - in the historic Old Post Office - will bring significant benefits and investment potential to the town centre through increased footfall, higher spend potential and by redefining The Cornhill and its environs as a 'go-to' dining and leisure destination. 

"Ipswich presents food and beverage brands with a new market that is not yet saturated, with the potential to grow and find their home in a welcoming and safe environment.

Tim Hortons is about to open at Anglia Retail Park

Tim Hortons is about to open at Anglia Retail Park - Credit: Paul Geater

"Notably, BrewDog will be developing its first Suffolk bar on the vibrant Waterfront and Tim Hortons has seen tremendous demand at Anglia Retail Park.

"We are also receiving requirements from other national chains seeking premises from between 1,500 and 4,000 square feet in Ipswich, with a provision of external seating. 

"It is encouraging that Ipswich is increasingly being seen as 'open for business' and we need to ensure that these positive 'green shoots' in our economy continue to flourish and grow."