In 2006 the Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company Ltd (Gloucester Heritage URC) launched an ambitious £1 billion Gloucester regeneration programme to revitalise and restore the city to its former glory.
The 10-year Gloucester regeneration plan included redeveloping seven most important areas of the city – Gloucester’s famous ‘Magnificent Seven’: King’s Quarter, Gloucester Docks, Gloucester Quays, The Railway Triangle, Greyfriars, Blackfriars, and The Canal Corridor.
In 2008 the recession kicked in and brought the plans to a standstill.
In 2013 Gloucester Heritage URC ceased operating and a new Gloucester regeneration strategy, which included the original Magnificent Seven and expanded beyond, was determined for the city’s development from 2013 to 2018.
The latest Gloucester Regeneration & Economic Development Strategy now covers the period 2015-2020.
Now, 10 years after the Magnificent Seven was launched, we are looking at the original seven sites which catapulted Gloucester regeneration – Gloucester Magnificent Seven as they are today.
1. King’s Quarter – the Heart of Gloucester Regeneration
King’s Quarter – the area of Gloucester that surrounds King’s Square –is the heart of the city centre and a number one priority in Gloucester’s regeneration scheme.
It was once an outstanding example of the brutalist concrete architecture of 1960-70s with multi-story carparks connected by overhead roadways, and an industrial-looking bus station that in 1963 received a Civic Trust Award.
Gloucester residents and authorities want to see a different King’s Quarter – a place for people and community, a modern and vibrant centre of a beautiful historical city.
It has proved to be a tough challenge. The 2014 plans for redevelopment of the Quarter were too retail focused and didn’t work out as it had been planned.
After long debates and careful considerations a new plan has been announced that focuses on King’s Quarter as a welcoming and friendly gateway into the city and a transport hub with a brand new state-of-the-art bus station.
The works on the bus station are now in full swing. The £7.5million project that started back in February has a special significant for Gloucester residents – a fresh start to the wider redevelopment of the whole area.
A new vision for King’s Quarter is a mixed-use scheme that takes into consideration the role and the position of the Quarter in the city. It will have everything necessary for a modern city gateway to properly welcome visitors and will instil pride in the residents of the city: a new multi-story car park; pedestrian links to the railway station; a new, purpose-built, ground floor indoor market; restaurants and cafes; leisure and entertainment; and retail space.
The masterplan, which will be taking a more detailed shape during the next few months following consultations with the public and stakeholders, might include a hotel and a limited residential development.
The heart of the Quarter –King’s Square – will become the most significant public space in the city centre. The discussions are taking place right now to determine how exactly Gloucester’s residents would like the Square to look and what it must deliver to be seen as a vibrant community hub in the city centre.
King’s Quarter is a visionary project for Gloucester, the city is determined to create a flourishing city centre with great nightlife and entertainment, attracting arts, festivals, music events, etc.
Gloucester is already home to a number of festivals and popular events, and King’s Square is becoming more important in showcasing them. For example, this spring Strike A Light – a bi-annual festival of contemporary performance – chose the top of the King’s Walk Shopping Centre carpark as its performance venue and was a huge success.
That’s exactly where the King’s Quarter sees itself – a modern and booming city centre, a cultural and community hub, and a great attraction to visitors.
Blackfriars plays an important role in Gloucester regeneration plans. By redeveloping this large brownfield site the authorities aim to create a vibrant mixed-use area that will bring employment, residential and leisure opportunities, open space, parking spaces and offices including a new state of the art justice centre.
There are plans for the new justice centre to double up as a performing arts space and a conference venue.
An improved pedestrianised link going through Blackfriars will connect the Historic Docks and the city centre
The five-year project also includes the redevelopment of the former HM Prison Gloucester for residential and leisure uses, opening up the Quayside along the River Severn.
The historic Fleece Hotel site, which has lain derelict for 15 years, is going to be revived and transformed. The Shire Hall will be also refurbished with solar panels integrated into re-cladding work.
The University of Gloucester is expecting to see more students coming to the city after the approval of massive expansion plans to the business school. It is now investing an impressive sum in its Oxstalls campus, which will incorporate a new performing arts centre and the Growth Hub.
Local MP Richard Graham sees Blackfriars as Gloucester’s student quarter – a young, vibrant and a little bohemian city area with modern homes, student accommodation, great open public spaces, cafes, arts venues and nightclubs.
Gloucester Prison has recently been bought by award winning developers City & Country who are planning to redevelop the dilapidated prison into new dwellings and potentially a 4 or 5 star hotel. City & Country are known for their expertise and experience in giving a new life to old historic buildings while preserving their heritage, and Gloucester Prison has a good chance to become another unique and outstanding historic redevelopment.
3. Gloucester Docks
The Historic Docks of Gloucester is an amazing area – a true and rare example of Victorian inland port that has been carefully and lovingly redeveloped to suit modern living.
The Docks regeneration project was effectively started back in the 1980s with the redevelopment of four historic warehouses.
Nowadays the Docks are a combination of new build and refurbished warehouses, typically for apartments with shops, cafes and restaurants, and other types of commercial uses on the ground floor.
The area is the centre of a thriving residential community.
There has also been considerable investment in the public realm which has set a quality benchmark that befits this unique heritage site which, along with the Cathedral, is one of the city’s most visited tourist destinations.
The Peel Group, a developer behind Gloucester Quays, are now investing in the development of the final part of the remaining derelict areas of the Docks itself – and regeneration of the business park on St Ann Way which will host a new Next superstore.
4. Gloucester Quays
Gloucester Quays are known as one of the largest waterside regeneration developments in the country.
The majority of the area has been successfully redeveloped by the Peel Group. The big mixed-use redevelopment scheme included refurbished warehouses, retailers, restaurants, leisure and entertainment uses.
Two years ago the second phase of the development was completed with a leisure quarter, which includes a 10 screen Cineworld cinema, and 11 restaurants, the majority of which sit along the pedestrianised street Merchants Road.
With retail and leisure units quickly filling with businesses, this popular area of the city is promising to become a great success.
Peel Holdings are now planning to invest further £100million in the next phase of a 10-year regeneration plan.
The developers are about to start work on 20 acres of brown field site at Monks Meadow to build up-market quality homes and apartments by a new marina.
Adjoining the main Gloucester Quays redevelopment area and stretched along the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal is Bakers Quay, full of dilapidated warehouses and industrial buildings.
Unlike its thriving and flourishing neighbour, Bakers Quay hasn’t seen much work done in the past 10 years. But it’s all about to change very soon.
Gloucester Council, Rokeby Merchant Ltd and WCEC Architects have developed a masterplan to revive this 3.5 acre brownfield site and turn it into a vibrant and attractive canal side area.
The plan includes redeveloping the decaying listed warehouses along the canal, which were originally constructed in the late 19th century, creating a new public square and adding substantial pedestrianised areas to the Quay.
“It is a challenging development seeking to preserve and capture as much retained heritage as possible, yet assemble an economically viable and fundable development.”
Provender Mill, a Grade 2 listed building, suffered a serous damage in an arson attack last year. The developers are planning to demolish what is left and carefully rebuild the mill creating a modern apartment block with a ground floor restaurant.
Downing’s Malthouse will also be converted to 42 residential apartments over a restaurant and will overlook an extended pedestrianised Merchants Road connecting the Quay with the Docks.
Two more warehouses will also become apartments, while the Engine Shed will be converted to Brewers Fare restaurant and the Transit Shed – to a canal side restaurant with the space in front of it transformed into an attractive public square.
A new canal pathway will make a fabulous waterside walk.
A few final touches for a reinvented Bakers Quay – a new hotel, a carpark, and a purpose-built Costa Coffee – will make the area welcoming for visitors as well as the residents. Development work has now commenced on site.
Gloucester regeneration is very much about reviving the city centre, which cannot be done without bringing people to live there.
Just a couple of years ago Greater Greyfriars area was dominated by non-residential buildings and the whole Gloucester city centre had a low population density due to the lack of homes.
Now Greyfriars Quarter is a modern and popular residential location two steps away from the bustling city centre.
Built on the site of the demolished Gloucestershire College buildings and the media site, 300 new homes are offering a truly urban lifestyle experience to their residents.
This stylish new development has been created with convenience in mind.
Featuring a collection of one and two bedroom apartments and two, three and four bedroom town houses, the development is designed for a busy lifestyle, with modern and bright living spaces and quality finishes, – all set within attractive landscaped grounds.
Eventually the area will have its own medical centre and will feature a new square with a café opening out onto the remains of the historic Greyfriars Priory.
6. The Canal Corridor
The Gloucester & Sharpness Canal was once the broadest and deepest in the world. Even today, it stands out from other navigations because of its sheer scale and impressive engineering.
For Gloucester the Canal Corridor has for many years been one of the city’s key employment areas. To bring it back to life means maintaining Gloucester’s history as a canal side city.
The regeneration of the Canal Corridor has opened up the south of the city. The new South West bypass, which runs parallel to the canal, allows to reach the city centre via a major new bridge.
There plans to redevelop the derelict sites along the Canal Corridor turning them into attractive canal side residential and business areas which will provide mixed tenure housing and employment sites for businesses expanding or relocating into the area.
Parks and open spaces will be created to improve access to the Gloucester and Sharpness Canal, which will also be improved as a national rowing venue.
7. The Railway Triangle
The Railway Triangle is another large brownfield development in Gloucester. It used to be railway sidings, and was left derelict for more than 20 years.
Today the works to create Retail and Business Park is underway. The access to the site has been significantly improved. The first business – retailer Morrisons – opened on the site in 2013.
The remaining land is in the process of being redeveloped as a mixed use site with restaurants, cafes, a car show room, and the office space for 22 small businesses behind the Morrisons, and a new railway carpark.
It is expected that five new restaurants and 22 businesses will move to the Railway Triangle soon.
Rygor, a commercial vehicle dealer for Mercedes Benz dealing in vans and trucks, is building its flagship showroom on the site, due to open in September 2016. Acquiring such a big investor was a great move forward for the Triangle as other investors are getting more interested in being involved.
The Railway Triangle is also becoming coffee shop contesting grounds with Costa Coffee having secured permission for a drive-through store, and Starbucks looking at the opportunity to open in the Triangle too.
Further improvements are planned to the station forecourt, and cycling and pedestrian access to ensure the Park will become an attractive area for businesses and customers.
Ten years after Gloucester regeneration programme was launched, the original seven sites – Gloucester’s Magnificent Seven – are shaping the city as a modern and attractive urban hub.
There is so much faith and effort behind Gloucester regeneration. The city is punching way above its weight in an attempt to revive its economy and become a thriving and attractive community.
New businesses and chains including some big names are steadily coming to the city to provide more jobs and more attraction.
It is not always easy to ensure the influx of big brands. It had taken two and a half years of negotiations and seven failed deals before TGI broke its own rule of not locating in cities with a population of less than 137,500 and came to Gloucester.
Despite the challenges and economic difficulties Gloucester regeneration is progressing. The city is on the right course to become one of the most attractive and modern second-tier cities in the country and it fully deserves so.
More on Gloucester regeneration can be found here.