Tag: urban regeneration

Story of the week: Changing the cityscape of Nottingham

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* image www.hotelroomsearch.net

The champagne corks will be popping for the launch of the new Eurostar service from London’s St Pancras International station.

But they’ll also be celebrating in Nottingham as the first high-speed service glides out of North London.

The reason? Improved rail connections from the East Midlands mean that the residents of Britain’s seventh richest city can now tuck into a fried breakfast first thing and be sipping a grand crème in the Gare du Nord some four hours and 54 minutes later.

“Being Nottingham born and raised, I’m delighted when I go back home to see the material changes in the city’s infrastructure and transport system,” says Greg Nugent, Head of Marketing for Eurostar.

“When we started to talk about High Speed One, it became obvious how the service could benefit not just London, but the UK as a whole.”

Urban renewal

Nottingham, the city best known as the home of fashion designer Sir Paul Smith and Boots, both of which still have a major presence in the city, has seen major investment in the last few years.

The city blossomed during its industrial heyday of the 1880s with the lace and cotton industries, but was looking tired and run down by the Eighties.

A slew of projects since 1989 have, however, changed the face of the city with the restoration of the Lace Market, now a conservation area to preserve the architectural character, the development of the Nottingham University campus and the inauguration of the National Watersports Centre at Holme Pierrepont.

The installation of the new Nottingham Express Transport (NET) tram system in 2004 has reduced traffic congestion and improved access around the city, now carrying 20,000 people per day.

Today, the ongoing regeneration of the city centre continues apace with major new projects including redevelopment of the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre, regeneration of the city’s eastern fringe and two new NET Tram routes two to Wilford and Beeston.

“Often commercial property kicks off regeneration but, in the case of Nottingham it was residential property that led the way: apartments were built, bars and restaurant opened and business moved in. The city centre is now home to both the UK head office of Capital One and the global HQ of Experian,” says Tony Pinks, Investment Sales Director for Nottingham-based Lace Market Properties.

“There was no city centre living in Nottingham before 1989. Less than 4,00 people lived in the city but, by 2006, that figures had increased to over 14,000.”

Heading south

One of the biggest initiatives in the city currently is the Southside Regeneration, a 15-year project to regenerate the area immediately south of the Victorian train station.

As a gateway to the city, the station makes for a pretty inauspicious welcome but the scheme aims to transform run-down Victorian warehouses and factories into hotels, offices, a conferences centre and leisure facilities, as well as a slew of residential apartment buildings with a very contemporary feel, plus new tram connections.

As part of this, the first two residential apartment blocks, Summer Leys House and the PictureWorks, will be ready for possession in 2009 with prices ranging from £140,000 for a one-bedroom to £240,000 for a three-bedroom, upper level apartment.

David Postings, who works in finance and commutes regularly from London, has already bought the Summer Leys House penthouse off plan. “I spend two to three days per week working in Nottingham and I was looking for more of a base than just another hotel room,” he explains.

Postings spent £250,000 for 900m sq with a terrace, a price he considers competitive given his other home is close to London King’s Cross station.

“This development appealed to me as it right by the station, brand new and high up, so benefiting from good light. And, as it was at a sufficiently early stage, I asked Lace Market Properties to reduce it from three to two bedrooms and increase the area of the living room,” he adds.

“Nottingham felt like a good place to buy with improving infrastructure and a sense of bouncing back after years of decline.”

In the suburbs

But while the city centre appeals to young professionals, families are increasingly heading out to the suburbs with Westbridge, Burton Joyce, Bingham and, in particular, Radcliffe all popular areas to buy.

“Nottingham city is not really aimed at the family market, never has been,” says Lucie Flint, Associate Director of Savills, based in Nottingham.

“In the city it’s only The Park, the area around Nottingham Castle, where a three-bed, modern townhouse starts from £400,000, that attracts families.”

“Most people head for the suburbs, notably the borough of Rushcliffe, where there are good schools, good services in terms of shopping and transport, and plenty of nice places to eat and drink, all within a few miles of the city centre.”

While Flint says Savills are currently flooded with apartments to sell in the city centre, the market in Rushcliffe is particularly vibrant with a good range of properties for couples and families.

A three-bed, detached house in a new development starts from £300,000 while a three-bed family property in a village on the fringe of the city currently sells for around £400,000.

Family home

“With the regeneration of the city, I think the majority of city-centre properties are now almost exclusively for investors, students and young professionals,” agrees Allan Stephens, a marketing professional in the public sector, who moved his family to Nottingham in 1996.

“The majority of people over 30 are moving out into the suburbs, or the Nottinghamshire countryside. The changing nature of available housing and concerns about much-publicised crime problems in the inner city are fuelling this.”

Stephens first moved to Nottingham in 1996, buying a three-bed new development in the suburb of Netherfield for £50,000.

Now married with two young daughters, he recently bought a four-storey, four bedroom family house with a garden in the suburb of Carlton, four miles northeast of the city centre, for £195,000.

“We find a lot of families are moving to Carlton,” he says. “It offers larger properties, good public transport connections to the city and is convenient for a quick escape to the countryside with plenty of parks, zoos and family attractions within a 15-mile radius.

“We’re also now crucially in the catchment area for the well-reputed Carlton-le-Willows secondary school.”

Near neighbour

Shadowing the renaissance of Nottingham is the increasing popularity of the spruced-up market towns around Nottingham as a base for families seeking a more rural environment. Of these, Newark, 25 minutes by train from Nottingham city centre, is proving to be one of the most popular spots to buy.

An attractive market town with a Georgian market square, a 12th century castle and a population of around 40,000, it already boasts a high-speed rail link to London’s King’s Cross station with an hourly service and a journey time of 90 minutes.

With transfer times of just a few minutes on foot from King’s Cross to St Pancras, Newark is also set to benefit from the new Eurostar service.

“Newark is booming with commuters to Nottingham and London, attracted by the character of the place, the transport connections (A1 intersection, GNER East Coast mainline), and good range of facilities with restaurants, the marina and golf courses,” says Richard Watkinson, Partner, Richard Watkinson & Partners.

“Families are particularly attracted to Newark over Grantham or Lincoln as prices still have a competitive edge and there’s a good stock of three and four-bedrooms, detached properties with gardens in residential areas, such as Beacon Hill and Fernwood.”

A three-bedroom detached house in Newark currently sells for around £180,000, an increase from an average of £100,00 five years ago, while a four-bedroom detached house now sells for around £225,000.

Newark’s Northgate train station may be located in one of the least attractive areas of town, but a house within a five-minute walk of the station comes with at a £10,000 premium.

“We looked all over the country but, in the end, we chose Newark for three reasons: it’s an attractive town with the river and the castle, it boasts a great central location with excellent transport connections and proximity to Nottingham and Lincoln, and we could get so much more for our money compared to the southeast,” says Debbie Ferguson, who recently moved from Pirbright, Surrey, to buy a four bedroom detached house with garden in the village of Farndon, two miles from Newark, for £185,000.

Civic pride

Back in Nottingham work is moving on apace to transform the beleaguered train station area and Greg Nugent is increasingly proud of the renaissance of his home town.

“I won’t be surprised if Nottingham sees an influx of European visitors, both for tourism and from a commercial perspective, once the new train services start,” he says.

“After all. Nottingham always did have a very commercial sense to make the most of new opportunities.”

What did you think of this story? Post your comments below.

This story first appeared in the Weekend FT in 2007. Liked this? Try also Urban Regeneration in Derby.

Antwerp: opening of the Red Star Line Museum

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I like Antwerp. I’ve been a few times now and I enjoy visiting the Flemish city for its food, fashion and free attractions.

I’ve also got a friend from university who currently lives there, and it’s an easy place to access from the UK both by rail and plane.

I was back again last week for the opening of the Red Star Line Museum [pictured above and below], part of the Little Island regeneration project.

I ended up doing a few pieces off the back of this trip, each with different angles, including one for the Weekend FT, Antwerp: Life in the old docks yet.

Another piece appeared on the CountrybyCountry blog.

There’s a third piece for the Daily Express to come.

I was suitably inspired by this recent visit to start thinking about new angles for next time, including an idea round the fashion scene in Antwerp and an alternative take on the diamond business.

Do you have any tips or contacts in Antwerp? What’s the big story for me to cover next time?

Post your thoughts below.

Red Star Line Museum

Visit Antwerp

 

Story of the week: Exploring Antwerp’s docklands regeneration

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* I’ll be heading back to Antwerp this autumn. The new Red Star Museum opens September 24 and I’ll be back for a preview having watched the regeneration of the docklands Little Island region since I first wrote the story below.

What’s changed since I wrote this? Post your comments below.

Antwerp is the Flanders city with that rare quality in Belgium: quirkiness.

Yes, it’s got diamonds, fashion and enough old-Europe money to stuff a bank vault several times over, but it’s the variety of village-style districts, all easily explored on foot and revelling in their own idiosyncratic character, that really sets it apart from living-museum Bruges and pen-pushing Brussels.

September brings Open Monument Day to Flanders and Antwerp will unlock the hidden-gem and tucked-away places that visitors rarely get to explore, such as the Antwerp Ruien, the city’s network of subterranean waterways.

Make sure to stop off around the Latin Quarter en route to buy traditional Antwerpse Handjes biscuits from Philip’s Biscuits and pastries from the Goossens bakery. These perennial-favourite delicacies will be fuelling the locals as they explore.

Water features heavily on Antwerp’s regeneration agenda with a whole new district of the city, the Eilandje (Small Island) docklands area north of the Old Town, currently opening up to explore.

Antwerp remains the world’s fourth largest port but the buzz is now about café culture not containers.

To be fair, the urban renaissance is still a bit work in progress, but the slow-progress evolution is even tempting the traditionally reserved Antwerp residents to leave their comfort zone of the fashionable south of the city to explore the shabby-chic north.

September in the Old Town also means the tour-party hordes are subsiding and the cobbled sidestreets less crowded to hunt out the interesting little galleries, cafes and boutiques.

But don’t fall for the last menus touristiques of the season around Groenplaats. A tram heading south will deposit you near Leopold de Waelplaats, nearby which you can eat amongst the locals at the pavement tables of Grill or Bar Italia and the watch the ritual weekend parade of designer garb and sports cars over a waffle-free brunch.

When you’re full, simply pop across the road to the landmark Royal Museum of Fine Arts (kmska.be). The permanent collection with works by Rubens and Magritte before is currently closed with major renovation ongoing until 2014.

Don’t miss

… the legacy of the Antwerp Six fashion collective on the city’s fashion sense. Fashion stalwart Dries van Noten maintains his flagship store, Het Modepaleis (www.driesvannoten.be) at Nationalestraat 16. But the latest crop of fashion graduates can be found exhibiting their collections at the Fashion Museum (momu.be).

… the Diamond Museum (diamantmuseum.be), which tells the story of the city’s love affair with big rockssome 85% of the world’s rough diamonds are traded in Antwerp’s diamond quarter.

… a close brush with Adam and Eve in Paradise. This iconic work is one of several by the Flemish master kept at The Rubens’s House (rubenshuis.be) with its baroque aesthetics and informative audio tour. But, for art without the crowds, the revamped Photo Museum (fotomuseum.be) offers a more contemporary view.

… people watching from a pavement café with a glass of local brew, De Koninck, or as thoughts turn to autumn, from a comfy armchair at Günter Watté’s chocolate-themed café (watt.be), sipping a latte and negotiating one of his dainty chocolate-pastry creations with a cake fork and a taste for indulgence.

… dipping your bitterballen (meatballs) into spicy sauce at the Art Deco-style Frituur No 1. Flanders has the finest fries on earth – prepared from Belgian Bintje potatoes, cut to a length of 11mm and fried twice for extra crispiness, since you ask – and this frituur is one of the best places to try them.

What’s new?

Het Eilandje

The first fruits of regeneration in the Small Island district are now ripe. New places to eat and drink, such as Felixpakhuis and Lux, are building a new following, the Royal Ballet of Flanders (koninklijkballetvanvlaanderen.be) has moved to a new performance space and a major, modernist new museum, Museum aan de Stroom (MAS; mas.be), is now open, telling the story of Antwerp as a world port city. By 2014 the tram system catches up with the progress to improve access.

Graanmarkt 13

Concept stores are de rigueur in Antwerp and this über-chic new opening, located at the heart of the Latin Quarter, takes the trend to its zenith. It combines a minimalist high-fashion clothes and interiors store upstairs with a suitably chic, candlelit downstairs eatery. But don’t blow the budget on a new outfit as the dégustation menu costs 80€ / £67 for eight nouvelle cuisine courses without wine; graanmarkt13.be

Hotel Les Nuits

The en-vogue home interior shop Flamant is branching out. First came the restaurant Flamant Dining (flamantdining.com) with its cool lounge and sunny roof terrace. Now the adjacent Hotel Les Nuits lives up to its nocturnal moniker with 24 Asian-styled rooms, each featuring black-lacquer cabinets and a low-lit, boudoir-chic feel. If you like the room décor, you can buy every single piece in the shop next door; hotellesnuits.be.

Paleis op de Meir

The city’s major new cultural space is the 18th-century, rococo building once chosen by Napoleon as his imperial place but never inhabited. The stately building has been saved from years of neglect and the restored rooms, all elaborate and ornate, yearn to recount their own individual story. Downstairs the Café Imperial (cafe-imperial.be) serves afternoon teas fit for an emperor  with a glass of bubbly; paleisopdemeir.be.

The Chocolate Line

Located across the courtyard from the entrance to the Paleis op de Meir, chocolatier to the stars Dominique Persoone has opened the latest Chocolate Line shop. Next to the lavish displays of chi-chi chocs, the open kitchen lets visitors pick up some of the secrets of a chocolate-crafting master at work. If you’re adventurous, enquire about a pure cocoa hit from the chocolate shooter. Well, it was good enough for Keith Richards; thechocolateline.be.

Insider’s secret

Tom Le Clef, manager, Felixpakhuis lounge and restaurant [pictured above]

“The next-door warehouse to our restaurant is Dries van Noten’s offices, but he also holds stock sales there each spring and summer. Time your visit well and you can catch up to 80 per cent off original designs. But get there early – the queues start at 6am.”

Further information

Tourism Flanders-Brussels (visitflanders.co.uk); Antwerp Tourism (visit.antwerpen.be).

This story was first published in the Independent on Sunday in 2010.

Liked this? Try also, Tracking Modern Art in Ghent.

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