When the news broke on Friday 26th June 2020 that retail giant intu had collapsed into administration, Nottingham turned a wary, weary eye to the partially-demolished Broadmarsh shopping centre.
This long-awaited and much-anticipated development had been a keystone of the Southside regeneration programme, a multi-million-pound project set to help transform the southern entrance to the city, boost Nottingham into the UK’s top six retail centres and become a shiny, state-of-the-art destination for socialising, shopping, dining and leisure.
And then, as the pandemic raged on, the mirage faded, leaving nothing but a half-derelict building site. An eyesore on the edge of the city, falling behind even as other Southside developments shot up into the sky mere metres away.
But as the dust began to settle, some began to wonder if this once unfathomable situation might, in fact, open a window of opportunity for Nottingham. Could something extraordinary emerge from the ashes?
This site, after all, has huge potential. In this city centre space as big as a football pitch, moments away from Nottingham Train Station and against the beautiful backdrop of Nottingham Castle, someone with the right vision could create a stunning focal point and a genuine source of pride for the community.
Based between the city and the station, the Broadmarsh is often referred to as the ‘gateway’ to the city, and even today remains an important thoroughfare. For many visitors, this is the first thing they see when they arrive and the last thing they see when they leave. These impressions matter.
It also borders several other districts, including Old Market Square, the canal side, the Lace Market, the Island Quarter, and the Castle and Park Estate, and is the entry point to popular visitor attraction The City of Caves. It is vital that any development here connects, rather than cuts off, these places – helping to improve access and navigation around the city.
Could it become a physical manifestation of Nottingham’s green credentials and carbon neutral ambitions? Perhaps an attractive eco-village with sustainable residential and commercial units to educate and inspire passers-by. It could include facilities for cyclists (such as a bicycle store) to help build our reputation as a cycle-friendly city, or include flexible educational spaces to become a destination for school trips or business events.
Many voices have called for a ‘green gem’, such as a park, a rooftop sky garden, a mini forest or even an Eden Project-esque dome. This would help to make the city a more pleasant place to live, work and visit, and would increase dwell time, which in turn benefits surrounding businesses.
The space could be used to celebrate Nottingham’s culture and creativity, featuring sculptures or artwork by local creatives or university students – the more iconic and ‘Instagrammable’, the better. It could pay tribute to Nottingham’s fascinating history and heritage, perhaps with a nod to the nearby City of Caves, the infamous Narrow Marsh area or the industrial revolution. An interactive map, signposting and a ‘Heritage Trail’ featuring our historic attractions such as Nottingham Castle and the National Justice Museum could help visitors to better understand the layout of the city, and what to see and do here.
A flexible open space for festivals and markets would enable the site to generate income and bring in regular visitors, whilst in a post-COVID world there could well be an appetite for some all-seasons alfresco drinking and dining. The site could also include some reimagined retail space; while the high street as we know it is changing, some charming and quirky units for independent artisan businesses could help to tempt people back into the city.
One thing is clear – this site must make a statement. In the midst of all the hardship and heartache of the coronavirus pandemic, Nottingham now has the chance to create something exceptional, and we must grab it with both hands. This vast placemaking project has the potential to bring real prosperity to Nottingham in the years to come, creating a wealth of exciting opportunities for both the visitor economy businesses and the investor and developer community that Marketing Nottingham work with, and helping us to make a real impact at international events such as MIPIM.
The vision is certainly there: some of Nottingham’s brightest and best individuals and institutions have already put forward their ideas, each one braver and bolder than the last, and it is imperative that everyone gets to have their say. The future of the beleaguered Broadmarsh site hangs in the balance – but if any city can rise to the challenge, it’s this one.
Join the conversation
Nottingham City Council would like to hear from as many local people and businesses as possible on what they would like to see at the Broadmarsh site. To complete the questionnaire for Nottingham businesses, please click here, or to complete the questionnaire for Nottingham citizens, please click here. The consultation closes on the 27th December 2020.
Nottingham businesses are invited to the Nottingham Partners roundtable panel discussion on Friday 27 November. The panel will focus on ‘Place Shaping’ and the strategy and vision for the site, and will be made up of Mel Barrett (CEO, Nottingham City Council), Cllr Sam Webster (Portfolio Holder for Finance, Growth and the City Centre, Nottingham City Council), Victoria Green (CEO, Spenbeck) and John Morgan (Director, Leonard Design Architects). Please email email@example.com for the registration link.
Posted on 09 November 2020