Eric Wright Construction has begun construction to deliver Animate, a £45m leisure and entertainment complex, on behalf of development partners Preston City Council in the UK and Maple Grove Developments.

The construction works feature public realm improvements, including enhanced pedestrian access between Animate and the bus station, as part of a wider Harris Quarter Public Realm and Lighting Scheme.

Funded and owned by Preston City Council, this project has drawn funding support from the Towns Fund (£3.4m), and City Deal (£3.25m).

Furthermore, the scheme’s public realm improvements also have the funding support of £800,000 from the Lancashire County Council Economic Recovery Grant.

Situated within the Harris Quarter, this scheme is currently 75% pre-let and features an eight-screen cinema, a bowling alley, national and regional restaurant brands and a street food hub, 164 space car park and enhancements to landscaping with an outdoor terrace for al fresco dining, street lighting, new trees.

Preston City Council councillor and leader Matthew Brown said: “Animate is at the heart of our diversification plans for the city centre, strengthening the cultural and leisure offer, attracting more people into the city, for a wide variety of reasons that the whole family can enjoy, for longer into the evening. Animate will remain in the ownership of Preston City Council and is a key addition to our Community Wealth Building agenda.

The construction phase is expected to create up to 200 full-time jobs for the local workforce.

Animate will also offer over 140 long-term jobs after opening to the public after a two-year construction phase.

Maple Grove Developments director Andrew Dewhurst said: “A huge amount of work over many years has got us to this point, and credit must go to the city council, as well as the wider project team, for their determination and drive in making sure plans become a reality. There are now nearly two years of construction work ahead of us on the site of the former markets, but the benefits Animate will bring to Preston once it is open will make it certainly worth the wait.”

Eric Wright Group managing director Jeremy Hartley said: “As a local business with a long-standing history of supporting improvement to our North West towns and communities, we are very proud to now be in a position to deliver this leisure-led scheme for the people of Preston to use and enjoy.”