Newcastle is a fantastic city for architecture and much of it is conserved. The most architecturally beautiful area is Grainger town, where Grey Street (image below) and the Theatre Royal are. Grainger Town is a historic town in the heart of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
The Grainger Town area covers 90 acres between Central Station and Northumberland Street, encompassing Grainger’s new buildings, Medieval streets like the Bigg Market and Victorian buildings too. In addition, the 13th century Dominican Friary of Blackfriars and remnants of the old Town Wall gives Grainger Town a great richness of character. Commercial ground floor properties consisting of shops sit beneath offices and residential properties in terraces with some landmark buildings such as the Theatre Royal.
Many of the buildings in Grainger Town are protected as Listed Buildings, and as such cannot be altered. A huge 40% of the buildings in the area are identified as being of historical and architectural importance.
Grainger Town has had 3 major periods of Urban Change.
The initial phase replaced old mediaeval parts of the town with new street layouts and buildings from 1835 to 42; a major decline phase from the 1960s to 1990s and its current regenerated phase.
Reasons why the area needed regeneration
By the 1990s the decline in the area was at its worst with;
1. Shops and offices moved out to other locations
2. Residential population of the area was falling rapidly to 1,200
3. 100,000 m² of floor space vacant
4. Investor confidence was low
5. Structural problems became evident with 47% of its 244 listed buildings classed as being 'at risk' and a further 29% classified as vulnerable
The main features of the REGENERATION project
1993 – English Heritage and Newcastle City council launched a programme of property development and environmental improvement which helped the most at risk buildings and began to stop the decline of the area.
1996 - Newcastle City council, the English Heritage and English Partnerships decided that the area could no longer be left to take care of itself and prepared a bid for government funding for a regeneration strategy
1997 - Grainger Town Project established – a partnership with Newcastle City Council, English Partnership and English Heritage. £40 million of public sector investment was expected to be bolstered by a further £120 million from the private sector, but the latter reached £160 million.
2003 – The project was finished to be overseen by the now defunct One NorthEast
Elements of the project:
These areas have been subject to a multi-million regeneration project that involved redeveloping the interiors of many buildings, cleaning the sandstone on Grey’s monument and the Theatre Royal and bringing empty shops back into use.
The original vision of the Partnership was that - “Grainger Town will become a dynamic and competitive location in the heart of the City. Grainger Town will develop its role in the regional economy with a high-quality environment appropriate to a major European regional capital. Its reputation for excellence will be focused on leisure, culture and the arts, retailing, housing and entrepreneurial activities. Grainger Town will become a distinctive place, a safe and attractive location to work, live and visit.”
The achievements of the regeneration of Grainger Town include:
1. The public realm was improved, using high quality stone and public art
2. 1506 jobs created as well as a further 800 in Grainger Town due to the increased confidence in the area.
3. 286 new businesses set up.
4. 80,900 m² of new and/or improved commercial floor space.
5. 121 buildings, many of them listed properties and classified as 'Buildings at Risk' restored for use.
6. Grey's Monument repaired and cleaned.
7. 289 flats and apartments completed with many located within the Grainger Street and Clayton Street areas.
8. Westgate House, which was an eleven-storey office block, perhaps Newcastle’s most unpopular building, was acquired by ONE North East and demolished between late 2006 and early 2007.
This project has been followed by others, not least the Helix development close to St James Park