Stevenage regeneration: What is changing in Town Square?
- Credit: Archant
The coronavirus pandemic may have ground the country to a halt, but Stevenage’s long-awaited 20-year £1 billion regeneration programme continues apace.
Now, as more visitors begin to notice the major changes afoot in the town centre, Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor has shared an update on the future of one of the programme’s major attractions – Town Square.
The council has already acquired Town Square’s north block to help kick-start regeneration, and has invested in the building to attract new shops such as Starbucks, Noodle Stop and Warren James.
The next phase of works however, will see the transformation of the upper floors to provide new flexible working spaces overlooking Town Square – which is set to create around 200 jobs.
This project – to become known as ‘25 Town Square’ – will bring much-needed activity into the heart of the town during the working day, helping to support surrounding businesses.
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The office space will be accessed through a new three-storey glass-fronted entrance that will be carefully aligned with the heritage of Town Square.
The council is also bringing the balcony above Starbucks back into use for the first time in almost 30 years to help create a livelier feel in the area.
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At ground floor level, a new restaurant space will also be introduced at the corner unit – formerly McDonald’s – which it is hoped will attract footfall during lunchtimes and evenings.
This will spill out onto Town Square which has been redesigned and modernised to provide a bigger and more flexible events space – by the restoration of many of the original features that have been lost over time.
Speaking on the project, Stevenage Borough Council leader Sharon Taylor said: “This blend of protecting and enhancing our heritage, and reinterpreting it for the modern world, is a consistent theme across our regeneration programme.
“The new natural stone paving and street lighting will work in harmony with other features including granite benches and seating areas – as well as bespoke, retro chandelier-style lighting, based on the same designs initially used in the Town Square in 1959.
“The scheme has been designed to address some of the other big challenges facing us. The new flexible working space will feature showers and lockers to encourage people to use sustainable transport. We have retained and enhanced existing trees and introduced new greenery, and the new work spaces will be available for businesses of all sizes.
Cllr Taylor added: “This will help us to work towards our climate change targets, as well as ensure the town centre is able to meet the changing needs of business in the face of coronavirus, with more emphasis on remote working and flexible spaces.”
The two schemes – which will both be finished later this year – have been delivered in partnership with developers Ashe and Mace. During the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak, the works were paused for a short period – but soon restarted – and safety measures for workers have been in place for some time.
“We were able to use a number of local suppliers ensuring more of the project spend stayed local for the benefit of our community,” Cllr Taylor added.
“The Town Square is a major milestone, and is transforming before our eyes. It will benefit us all over the coming year which, after the last few months, is just what we need.
“The Square is probably our most iconic area and the redevelopment gives us real confidence in the wider programme moving forward.
“Introducing over 200 professionals into the flexible working space will also raise demand for services across the town centre and the project facilitates the development of others – like the relocation of the bus interchange and the introduction of a new Garden Square and public services hub.
“The past few months have been challenging for everyone, but the transformation of our town centre should give everyone real confidence in the future of Stevenage.”
Stevenage Borough Council is also launching a new ‘virtual visitor centre’ on its website, to ensure that everybody is able to keep up to date with the latest news over the coming weeks.
To find out more about the regeneration programme, visit www.Stevenage-Even-Better.com or follow on Twitter and Instagram at @StevenageBetter.