Car park investment

Published:  01 March, 2007

Bracknell town centre is set for a major overhaul over the next six years, with the Bracknell Regeneration Partnership ploughing £750m into creating new retail, residential and leisure opportunities. But while construction is not expected to start for more than a year yet, Princess Square shopping centre, owned by the BRP, has started the ball rolling by refurbishing its multi-storey car park.

USL Contractors was appointed to undertake the refurbishment, of which the initial phase is now complete, with national firm PWP Consulting acting as project manager to the scheme.

Rob Morris, retail manager at Princess Square shopping centre, says: "When I first came here 18 months ago, the multi-storey car park seemed to be a built-on accessory. It was very tired, hadn't been looked after very well and it wasn't being used as an anchor."

The lighter, brighter, 600-space car park includes a new pay-on-foot system, which allows for better data analysis. The previous system was 10 years old, unreliable and causing customers problems, according to Morris. "When looking at the strategy for the centre we wanted to improve the car park, revenues, customer service and data," he says.

The ACS Multipark system was chosen because its technology and data reporting met the centre's requirements. It also installed parking equipment in the bright orange brand colour of the BRP.

"We get full data - occupancy numbers, new transactions, peak flow times, entrance admission and exit numbers, then various summaries depending on time of day and week," explains Morris, who can access information directly from his lap-top.

Two additional pay-on-foot systems were also installed to cater for customer demand, which means the centre has gone up from four to six pay-on-foot machines. The ACS CA410 pay stations accept four-way readable magnetic strip tickets, with payment by coin, notes or credit card. Each station will also accept staff pass cards. There are also two pairs of Multipark terminals and three exit terminals and barriers.

Morris says: "Bracknell excels as a convenient and user-friendly town centre. The improvements ACS is implementing will complement the stress-free and vibrant shopping environment."

The lower level of the car park was refurbished at the end of last year, with the remainder set to be completed this spring. It includes resurfacing on upper-level ramps and repairs to water damage.

Works have brought new signage and branding throughout, improvements to the centre entrance lobby and more disabled and parent-toddler bays. 'Stork' spaces in baby blue and baby pink have been added, providing more comfortable access for expectant mothers. "This has been a very popular addition with positive feedback and lots of use," says Morris. "We are responding to customer needs, providing new and modern services we hope will lead to better retail spend."

The new surface is a grey-on-grey scheme with more designated walkways for pedestrians leaving or returning to their cars. In addition, the new branded car park is designed to showcase the retailers within the centre.

"Bracknell has a very good representation of retailers already, even though the regeneration is about bringing in new names," says Morris. "We are reminding people of the brands here and feedback we have had is people saying 'Is that a new retailer?' We are now looking to reinforce brands in the town, which will be repeated in future areas."

The car valet service has also been improved. Feedback showed that customers didn't often go on to the third level where the valet service was based and preferred the idea of dropping their car off and picking it up again later from the lower level. "We have brought it down to level one and now customers can drop their car off at arrival for convenience and have their full valet without having to go upstairs," explains Morris.

The car park, which had improvements made to its lighting system last year and currently has Park Mark status, is also set to benefit shortly from a new CCTV system, which will be a centre-wide enhancement.

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