Stevenage Borough Council celebrated the first major landmark in its ambitious £1bn 20 year town centre transformation with the completion and opening of the Town Square and North Block last Friday.
Originally developed in 1959 and rightly proud of its original first new town heritage, Stevenage’s Town Square has been sympathetically transformed to reflect that heritage and make way for the next exciting stages of the new SG1 development to complete the regeneration.
The refurbished Square provides an attractive area for the local community, businesses and visitors to meet. With the iconic clock tower remaining a key feature, the Town Square benefits from attractive new paving – an updated version of the paving originally used which becomes more vibrant in colour when it rains. Granite benches, new bins, bespoke heritage streetlamps and festoon lighting all help to provide a bigger and more flexible event space in our Town Centre.
The pandemic has had a profound impact on town centres everywhere. With the increase in online shopping and the reduction in traditional retail, town centres need to be more ‘multifunctional’ and provide additional reasons for people to visit with a combination of residential, food and beverage, leisure and commercial facilities. These facilities need to be available during the daytime as well as into the evening for the town to continue to be economically viable.
The recent announcement from pharmaceutical company Autolus that it wants to build its global headquarters in Marshgate demonstrates the importance and new purpose of the town centre.
The restoration of heritage building glass frontages are based on Stevenage’s original architectural design. Damaged canopies have been replaced with new ones made from highly durable and attractive Siberian larch. The project has been completed utilising Growth Deal 3 funding from the Local Enterprise Partnership and delivered by Stevenage Borough Council, with contractor Ashe Construction.
With many workers primarily working from home, flexible workspace in our town centre has become ever more important. The Council took ownership of and transformed the previously derelict / unused upper floors of North Block to provide 18,000 square feet of brand new accessible and usable space. Co-Space, has taken this space and will be providing up to 200 desks, bringing more people in to the heart of the town.
Speaking from the new balcony of the North Block, in use for the first time in over 20 years, Sharon Taylor, OBE, Leader of the Council, said:
“This is an exciting day for Stevenage. We all have reason to be extremely proud of our new Town Square and North Block and to celebrate. It’s great to see local residents and businesses enjoying our new 21st century facilities.
“This celebration heralds the start of a new era. The events of the last 18 months have changed the way we live our lives forever. Our New Town Square and North Block are major milestones in our Regeneration Programme that will help the town, its people and businesses to move forward. This amazing transformation has happened despite the challenges of the pandemic and is testament to the hard work and commitment of a dedicated team of people. I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to achieve what we see here today.
“We can’t wait to share with you our exciting plans for the current bus station once the new interchange is up and running, what an amazing time for Stevenage.”
Cllr John Gardner, executive member for Environment and Regeneration added:
“Stevenage should be very proud of its newly regenerated North Block and Town Square. Today marks the celebration of one of the most unique post-war town centre regeneration projects in the country.”