Future High Street Fund plan unveiled
Two of the city’s most important buildings could play starring roles in a radical plan to get more feet on the ground, more exciting and creative events and more places for people to live in the city centre.
Urban Splash, Plymouth City Council and the University of Plymouth have unveiled plans as part of the city’s Resurgam recovery project that could rebuild confidence and create a buzz that will bring more people in, for more reasons and for much longer.
The scheme is part of the city’s Future High Street Fund pitch which is due to be submitted to Government at the end of the month and its key themes are to:
- Restore the Civic Centre as a symbol of renewed confidence
- Introduce high impact uses with economic and social value
- Build a high profile events economy around the refurbished Guildhall and Civic
- Fill the Civic with pioneering, industrious and creative people
- Kick-start a local distinctive Future High Street.
City centre champion Councillor Mark Lowry said: “This is a real opportunity to change and to create something exciting and distinctive that will bring people to the city centre. We’ve all been saying for a long time that the High Street as we know it has gone. Sadly the pandemic has made this even more the case. We needed to rethink entirely what we could do to bring large numbers of people back into the city centre and this could do the trick.
“The Civic Centre and the Guildhall acted as beacons of our post-war response. Now they will shine as beacons of our post-COVID response. They are both important landmarks in every respect.”
Under the plan, the Civic Centre restoration would not only involve 144 private residential apartments within the tower, it would also have conference facilities as well as a creative hub space for entrepreneurs to work and trade. Across the Civic Square, the Grade II listed Plymouth Guildhall could be upgraded for events and conferences. Between the two buildings more people would be attracted into the city, bringing considerable spending power to shops, bars and hotels but also plans for supporting virtual technology that would connect city events internationally as well as enhancing sustainability.
Chief Executive of the Plymouth City Centre Company, Steve Hughes said: “Footfall has fallen by 21 per cent in the last five years, retailers are facing an uphill struggle, more of the same isn’t the answer. We need to think differently to get more people here.”
The Future High Street bid is not just about transforming buildings but about enticing people to live, work and socialise in the city centre and to make it an attractive location. Having more people living, working and visiting this part of the city would act as a catalyst for new business, opening up the possibility of neighbourhood bars, restaurants and bakeries, for instance.
Urban Splash’s Group Board Director Nathan Cornish added: “We got together with the University of Plymouth and Plymouth City Council to put together what we hope is a compelling bid for Future High Streets funding. Our plans not only breathe new life into the iconic Civic Centre but they link together the Guildhall and address a longstanding need to increase Plymouths conference and events capacity. We are excited about these ideas and would welcome the feedback from the people of Plymouth and invite their support for our bid.”
Plymouth has been diversifying its economic base for years. The conference and events market is a key growth sector which is generating visitors and their spending power and increasing the role of the arts and creative industries.
The Future High Street fund will contribute up to £25 million to each successful place, however many are expected to be in the £5 to £10 million region. Projects must focus on changing the use, not just appearance, of an area and have a long-term impact. The awards will not be announced until the Autumn.
The project team want to hear what people think of the plan and are inviting people to join them in a webinar on 19 June to get more details of the thinking behind the plan.