I hear that the UK town of Stockton on Tees is to demolish many of it's empty High Street shops, and create a park instead. Main shopping streets, and their shops, have been under attack for some while, and the current pandemic has only helped their decline.
I've not visited Stockton, but having looked at photos on Google Images, it looks to be quite an attractive town, on the banks of a wide river.
With the huge rise in online shopping, there is little doubt that more business premises will remain empty; so what to do?
Here's an idea. There is a lot to be said for replacing town-centre unwanted shops, with large grassy areas, with open-air covered market places; these can have so many uses, and they would be an asset to any community. The one above is in my closest small town; imagine a modern equivalent positioned in a large park in any UK town.
In future people will always use out-of-town mega-stores for their general shopping, but they would undoubtedly head back into a town centre for special events based under such a building.
They could house weekly Farmers' markets, concerts, summer fairs, weddings, dances, or even weekly boot sales; nothing can be ruled-out from their usage. Acting as a huge umbrella in case of rain, they are also perfect in areas of unpredictable weather.
Personally I would like to see communal BBQ facilities and even a community Bread Oven built into them.
The area where I live is awash with such buildings (the one above is at Monpazier), and several have been built in recent times, including this one (below) in my own tiny village which is very well used; as you can see.
This may not be the perfect solution to empty-shop-syndrome, but as a community facility they could only bring people back into the town centre; and that is what all failing town-centres need.
Any remaining empty shops should be refurbished as dwellings. Change those shop fronts into really desirable looking house facades, and simply rearrange the interiors. QED.
I like the theory but who will pay to buy all the properties? Not that they would be worth much if empty. Generally I find many English High Street shops and environments unappealing. Quaint is good, but old and dowdy not really.ReplyDelete
I suppose the cost would fall on the local council. I know plenty of streets that are full of empty shops (or charity shops) which could easily be converted into homes. It would just take an architect with imagination and 'taste' to rebuild the facades. Otherwise, pull them down and create something that everyone can use.Delete
Unfortunately the Government is pulling funding from local councils so that even essential services are suffering. I think it's a great idea but the funding would have to be there for building, maintenance and looking after it.Delete
Morning Mr Magnon.....ReplyDelete
I think your idea of adding LARGE multi-use covered space to parks, open town centres, etc is excellent....
everywhere from the toe of Italy northwards in our hemisphere can use one.... it is an all season construct, too...
as we are experiencing climate change and resultant extremes, some form of sheltered exhibition, market and concert space is actually very necessary.
Grosmont... a tiny village in South Wales has a very good example.... it actually has a room upstairs as well of the same area as the open space below.... the access is via a closed stairway at one end.... when they had concerts, the inner wall of the stairwell acted as the back of the stage area. Same for poetry readings.
Collapsible staging units were stored under the stairs.
Many French examples also have the more sheltered upper space....
Yep, a fab idea Cro.... possibly one of the best.
The UK used to have a covered area in most market towns. Sometimes known as Butter Markets, they were often quite small, but served a need. Much bigger covered areas would certainly find plenty of uses.Delete
The ones to convince are the building owners who have been upping their rents on their investment and the Councils who have been getting the Business rates for doing little.ReplyDelete
I remember a publican saying he needed to pay bills of £120,000 before he took a penny home. That's crazy; no wonder so many shops are empty, and so many pubs will close.Delete
This was very much on the cards long before Covid.Delete
A good idea, and converting empty shops into dwellings would ease the pressure on the need for green field sites for development.ReplyDelete
As long as they were done with 'imagination', they would solve a need, as well as bring people back into the town centres.Delete
What a wonderful ideaReplyDelete
It's worked over here since the 13th C, so there's no reason it shouldn't work elsewhere.Delete
A great idea, looks awesome. Would it really work these days or would it become a graffiti filled wasteland. BBQ and a bread oven? Would work in sunnier climes, does work. I remember australia having bbqs in the parks for the public to use.ReplyDelete
Just needs one enthusiastic and far seeing council to start the ball rolling.
We don't see graffiti here; I wonder why? Of course in the big towns it's everywhere, but country folk seem to be more respectful.Delete
Undoubtedly, after this bloody pandemic, town and city centres will never be the same again. Some things have changed forever. Perhaps this was always the way. As a boy when I visited "the continent" with my family we noticed that every French village of any size had its own boulangerie. Now that is most certainly not the case and this had nothing to do with COVID-19. I like the idea of those large covered areas.ReplyDelete
There was a move to build communal bread ovens here, a while back. I don't really know what happened. Here most farms have a large oven, and the locals took in turns to fire-up, and everyone came to bake their week's bread. A wonderful idea.Delete
I used to love the amount of use made by the one in Charroux near where I stayed in France. I know the one in Montpazier too.ReplyDelete
I love the Montpazier Halle, the roof is at just the right height. And of course the Square is splendid.Delete
I think that's the best idea I've heard in a long while. Comfortable, multi purpose community spaces.ReplyDelete
They are such useful buildings, and would replace buildings that are no longer of use.Delete
I would imagine many are sad about the change. Once some type of normalcy comes back, I think that people will want to shop again in the open markets. I think that most would prefer to be outside after these awful quarantine times and buy things not from a picture on our computers but rather in person. I look forward to going back to our Farmer’s Market and enjoy the food, the crafts, the music, and the people.ReplyDelete
I understand that a weekly 'farmer's market' now exists very near to our home in the UK, which I really look forward to discovering. When living in a town, such things are essential.Delete
Good idea to allow small or micro- even pop up enterprises to start up and flourish without prohibitive rents and business rates. Pre Covid- in fact a good few years ago there were several craft businesses sharing a small shop in a type of co operativeReplyDelete
I'm a great believer in town centre markets. France is known for its markets, they bring people in from all over, and everyone benefits. It can also be a handy starting point for future entrepreneurs.Delete
I think it is a wonderful idea! The last picture surprised me. I got a bit misty at the idea of people sitting together and talking ~ just like the 'old days'.ReplyDelete
Our village hosts a weekly Thursday evening 'mass picnic', where farmers sell their wares, and people come to buy and eat together. The photo was taken about two years ago, but it will happen again; maybe this year.Delete
In Poundbury, Dorchester, in my home county of Dorset, UK, Prince Charles continues to build his ‘model village’ which has a mix of shops and services, pubs, cafes, offices, industry buildings nestled together with green spaces, a new school and church with various architectural designs throughout. It’s design is based on the way our villages and towns first evolved. Love it or hate it as you wish! However, this mix of use is something I would love to see rekindled in our sad high streets with their empty retail and office footage being repurposed for homes and integrated in with your fab idea of community space. Just how it was when I was a child with our huge livestock and produce markets, a time to meet with your community, complete your weekly shop at the markets and shops, top up with a lunch and a pint at the pub and have a fantastic day out whilst supporting multiple businesses! Let’s hope our local councils have some good quality in their forward vision and keep a tight rein on redevelopment for their local communities.ReplyDelete
And I meant to add houses of all shapes and sizes (and prices!) are side by side I’m the mix!Delete
I don't see why it shouldn't happen again. I also remember cattle markets being in towns (now moved elsewhere), where the town centres were packed with people all spending money. Planning dept's have a lot to answer for. Well done Charles, he has the right idea.Delete
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