I would like to see a 20 year masterplan for the Princes Avenue Axis, making this thoroughfare a centrepiece for regeneration of L8 and beyond. (Dave’s got a great picture that shows most of this area in his “above the rooftops” section of his website……I’ve got some not as good pics of that view but can’t find them, if I can I will put one up).
I’ve always loved this road, my Dad was brought up in Jermyn Street, a little road that runs off its north side. I think Princes Avenue is the greatest untapped asset the city possesses, although planning and housing policy has totally failed to seize on that.
My vision is of an up-market inner-suburb, of the sort found in cities like Hamburg (I only discovered that city quite recently, so sorry if I keep going on about it). Nearest equivalent I can think of for those who know London would be the feel of parts of Highgate, although I am talking about a more modern and higher density zone.
Concentrating on an area half a mile either side of Princes Avenue, the notion I have is of a high density, compact and largely (but not exclusively) residential area. It would be more mixed socially than it is now, so people currently there in social housing and low quality private rented could remain in the area if they wanted (but at higher densities) but I’m after more middle class people living there as well. It could provide a style of living currently missing in the city centre, a calm and quiet prosperous style of life but still within walking distance of the University / city centre area. It would be especially suitable for people who want to raise families without moving to the suburbs, but who have out-grown a 2 bed city centre flat without a balcony.
A combination of pure fake Victoriana and restoration should sympathetically bulk-up and where necessary actually re-create the streets immediately off Princes Avenue, giving way quickly to classy modern apartment blocks – a standard European 4 – 6 storey model, with good landscaping, generously sized balconies, a real inner suburb with tree-lined roads and prosperous, well maintained communal gardens.
Commercial premises would be interspersed, as I see this area as potentially being an attractive location to spin-off R&D type companies from the University – medical research companies, small pharmaceutical research centres, maybe things like foreign language schools as well. It could provide a very nice location for such businesses, without the nonsense of thinking “business park”. The two universities, as and when they have opportunities to grow again, both in terms of teaching/research and residential buildings, should be encouraged to build in this zone.
In terms of where it is, I see a zone bounded by Upper Parliament Street, Princes Road, perhaps Windsor Street in the south, and Belvedere Road at the park end, being the area to concentrate on initially. There would need to be comprehensive redevelopment on a large scale as there is a very large amount of low-density, red-brick semi-detached housing that is totally unsuitable and that has destroyed the street plan, plus higher density blocks that need replacing or remodelling (pity the New Heartlands housing market renewal initiative hadn’t been tasked with doing this – they actually have the money to do something useful like this, at least to kick-start it).
Some extremely interesting old shots of the area (I think from the late 70s maybe???) here: http://www.arklo.com/1982_36Views/36Views_p16.htm
However, some action should be taken on the North side also: but at good densities, and applying the same principles that the developments need to ensure social and ethnic and every other type of mixing. Partial-gentrification, of a form that keeps the existing people and makes their quality of life better as well as bringing in lots of newcomers with more resources.
Ideally, a tram would run down Princes Avenue, but the plan doesn’t need that. The Road, however, as the centrepiece, should be restored, with good quality lighting throughout to make the most of its grand features and scale. All the trees need those nice blue lights they use in New York a lot (I think I recently saw some in St John’s Gardens….or was I imagining it?)
To me such a plan fits the bill. It would stretch the city centre, and create a new axis of desire between Hope Street and Princes / Sefton Park. It would be a magnet to attract and retain the types of people who can create businesses and jobs in the city, and provide a natural stepping zone for the newcomers in the city towers to move into. It would provide an entirely new style of living opportunity near the centre, as well as a new type of business location that could attract inward investors. It would kick-start a genuine process of recreating L8, an area that in the long term has fantastic potential as a prosperous inner city district far removed from its current role.