Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Chester's renaissance

When most people picture Chester they usually think of the famous clock, the "Roman" walls or the Tudor/Mock Tudor buildings. It's true to say Chester has a rich past which helps to attract tens of thousands of tourists and it's more laid back feel, combined with leading high street stores attracts many tens of thousands of shoppers each year.

However in Chester's recent past there have been some architectural misses which have spoiled the look and feel of some corners of the city. 

The first purpose built market was constructed in Chester next to the Town Hall in 1826, and as with most buildings had evolved over the decades. However in 1970 what has been described as "civic vandalism of the worst kind"(1) commenced with the demolition of the existing building to make way for the modern brutalist concrete structure we see today.

The rear of the Town hall is now lost in a sea of angular concrete and brick structures which do not fit all all with the hall which opened in 1869 and built in the Gothic Revival style. A Striking photo of the building which once stood next to the Town Hall shows what had been lost.

Fortunately however the days of the existing market hall may be numbered, as the council has now put forward plans to redevelop this corner of the city.  In fact if it were not for the financial crisis of 2008 the market hall would have already given way to a new development which would have included a retail units, apartments, extended hotel and large department store. 

The new proposals which have been developed by Cheshire West and Chester council are smaller in scale to the original plans for a £800m privately financed development. However it will still included key elements of the original proposal and will transform this part of the city. 

The new development will use the land which is currently used as the main city centre bus station, as well as the market and Forum Shopping Centre.

The Cinema in the background of the image is already undergoing a transformation. It was always to be included in the plan, however has sat empty since 2007. The 1930s brick art deco building which is Grade 2 listed will be transformed into a cultural centre.

The existing brick building is being fully restored whist a new modern extension is being constructed that should hopefully compliment the existing structure. The new cultural centre will house a 800-500 seat theatre, library spaces, café and a boutique cinema

In order to facilitate the construction of the new development a new bus station is already being built on the site of former Gorse Stacks car park. The new curved bus station will provide passengers with a fully enclosed waiting area which will be a vast improvement over the collection of inadequate shelters which makes up the current interchange.

Progress on the new bus interchange April 2016

It appears that developers have learned from the past and are now designing buildings that whilst appear modern fit contextually within their surroundings.

We'll be watching the development closely and will provide updates as soon as construction starts.

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