Friday, June 23, 2017

News: Key projects in Rotherham town centre masterplan

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Rothbiz takes a look at the key sites and "catalyst" projects in the Rotherham town centre masterplan that was launched this week.

Forge Island
Seen as the major catalyst project in picking up the momentum for the town's regeneration, the plans reiterate the desire for a leisure, retail and residential development around the riverside. Previously the Rotherham Forge & Rolling Mills, the 1.57 hectare site has recently been fully cleared following the relocation of Tesco across town in 2014. Currently used as a car park which will be extended for at least another year, the site is now owned by Rotherham Council.

Developers, investors and operators are showing a keen interest in working up proposals for a five screen cinema, 60-bed hotel, food outlets, bars and cafes. A 300+ space multi storey car park is also in the plans and a feasibility study is being carried out on the potential of a new theatre and arts space on the site of the former Law Courts, which is also owned by the Council. A hydro-electric power system could be incorporated on the weir.

Andrew Clarke, a director of urban design at consultants WYG who was project director for the masterplan said: "Forge Island is key and work is already underway following the Council's acquisition.

"Developers are telling us that there is a market for a commercial development like this, including brands in the food and drink sector. Yes, it is commercial but it is also about creating a new, high quality riverside frontage."

The Council is searching for a development partner and is set to take a detailed brief to the market in September 2017.

The Riverside
Housing is set to play a key role in bringing more people into Rotherham town centre. Government cash has also already been secured for £30m of housing development on Council-owned sites. One of which is the site of the former Sheffield Road swimming baths which has the potential for 158 units.

It is hoped that the masterplan will also stimulate further residential development nearby, for example on the land between Westgate and Main Street which is earmarked for a mix of uses, predominately housing, but is currently home to the Royal Mail sorting office, BT's telephone exchange and land used for car parking.

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Damien Wilson, strategic director of regeneration and environment at Rotherham Council, said: "The focus will be on quality, with homes, including car parking, in a riverside location. With improved connectivity like the tram-train coming next year, we have to think about our relationship to Sheffield. Being able to offer people more for their money with good connectivity presents a good opportunity."

Proposals also show an amount of demolition on Corporation Street following discussions with property owners and tenants. Retaining the former Natwest Bank, further leisure, retail and residential development would be enhanced by open space between the Minster, Minster Gardens and Forge Island.

The Markets
The popularity of the markets has "kept the town alive" but parts of the complex on Drummond Street are underutilised. Following consultation, the masterplan proposes a simple solution to enhance the existing site and improve linkages to the nearby £40m Tesco Extra store. The demolition of Council-owned units around the edge of the outdoor covered market is proposed with a new attractive stepped entrance and space for a new community advice hub.

Andrew Clarke explained: "The entrances to the market are not particularly attractive, especially onto Drummond Street. By removing some of the building and improving the public realm improves the visual appearance and opens up the architectural features that are already there such as the roof canopies."

Further public realm improvements could also take place in Effingham Square near Tesco and the bus station and "College Fields" could be created between the market and college campus.

The Interchange
Funding is in place for a £12.5m revamp of the town's bus station with architects at Jefferson Sheard well underway with the latest plans for the site which also includes a multi-storey car park and retail units.

Doncaster Gate
Led by the RNN Group, work is due to start imminently on a £12m Higher Education (HE) campus that is scheduled for completion in autumn 2018. Key to boosting the local economy, the 44,000 sq ft campus will also provide enough space to eventually house 1,000 students, boosting footfall in the town centre.

Doncaster Gate could also be connected to the heritage-led regeneration that has already taken place on Rotherham's High Street. With the unique Grimm & Co on the corner, transport and public realm works could tie the two together and enhance the setting of the magical literacy charity.
Guest & Chrimes
With the aim to create a focus for recreation and sporting activity in the town, mixed leisure development proposals are being prepared by Rotherham United Football Club, who controls the site via a long leasehold. Whilst proposals are being finalised by the club, the masterplanners have mocked up a proposed vision for the Grade II listed building turned into a "new and exciting destination leisure offering, with potential for very significant numbers of visitors each year."

Main Street
Most recently used as a nightclub and car parking relating to the Council offices, proposals here to compliment the town centre include a new larger format discount-convenience food store along with ancillary large format retail units alongside a drive-thru café / food and drink unit.

Images: RMBC / RUFC


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