I am responding to the article in the express and star requesting ideas on how to improve Wolverhampton...
5)Unique features and venues to attract people from far and wide London has many amazing things to see one of which is a bar made completely out of ice. People come from all over the country to see this. Now in reality people probably don’t spend more than half an hour in there, but they don’t go all that way just for half an hour. They will leave and go somewhere else in a domino effect, another reason for having cafes, bars and clubs together in a clustering effect Wolverhampton needs to encourages cafes, bars, and clubs to setup again, but not just any... they need where possible to be really special. Ie pull people from Birmingham to us and not the other way round. Why not try to setup an ice bar, or a jungle bar, or a themed medieval restaurant, dungeon bars (basements)? With the premises the Council owns they could be more picky over who locates in the centre and could offer a Grant pot for exactly this type of thing. To help businesses wanting to start up do something special. If could be that the shops have a tendering process and local teenagers and young adults, the generation of the future who are the ones most likely to use those services, could be used to judge whats “cool” I recently went to see a friend in Glasgow and they had converted an old warehouse in the docks into an indoor village, with cobble streets, and central Spanish square with a trapeze artist in the middle, surrounded by outdoor cafes and farie lights on the ceiling – was amazing and just shows what you can do. It was also packed – mixture of shops and eating places When i recently went to Sheffield i discovered that one of their streets had literally been turned into a green house with exotic plants from all over the world and a mini waterfall and again with a cafe in the middle, with others leading off it, i am told this is also extremely popular at night. Simply because, its different, its unique, its not ordinary, and it creates interest – something like that could be done on a part of Dudley street or a minor road off it. Maybe at a junction on the street giving room for activities within it? Although nightlife and excitement is only one factor, for many especially young people it is a huge consideration in deciding where they live and play. People from as far as Solihull used to come out here. It could be like that again Although i have suggested a Grant pot is created for businesses to be able to do something that is extra special. If necessary the council should take a risk and purchase buildings ( maybe about 6 or 7 large venues in strategic locations?) to provide these “pull in venues” if such things are felt to not come forward from the private sector ( this could be in areas like Queens square, by the civic centre, by the royal landon, by the grand theatre). If such things are setup it may then encourage business owners next to these to try different things and become more vibrant. I think this has to be viewed in the context of competing with neighbouring areas. If you get people from afar with higher disposable incomes spending here and choosing to live here, this could also change and expand the range of shops we have available, due to the clientele base changing. This is potentially a risk but to change things risks need to be taken and this could be a real winner
5)Arriving at Wolverhampton and first impressions Arriving at Wolverhampton by train is not the best experience due to the view of the old unused industrial buildings. This could be screened from view by large trees. At the entrance to train station there should also be some feature. Sheffield is a brilliant example of this. It has a teered flight of stairs leading from the station to the city and this flight of stairs is mirrored by a mini waterfall, lit up at night with many drops to mirror the stairs. It also has Hollywood style letters saying welcome to Sheffield. Something like that in Wolverhampton, with again a water feature would be brilliant. I don’t think it can be underestimated how much water and green things can soften a place and changes its feel. At the moment the town feels very concrete You are then met by the brilliant new bus station and the magnificent old worldly Britannia hotel. The problem is on the opposite side of the road where flares night club used to be you feel this should continue. However it suddenly ends abruptly and looks awful. I think money should be spent on creating buildings there with a mock old worldy look to continue the feel of that area of town, in the prince albert style which would also then intergrate that pub into the town and make it less like its on an island by itself. This was a another area that used to have quite a bustle due to the theatre, and it could again , but again it needs to offer something special and different.
6)Business rates Council’s will soon be able to retain their own business rates. Extremely high rates relief should be given to businesses operating in the city centre
7)Improve the look of buildings Where ever there is a historical building, like the posada, Gifford arms, or the Royal London, but they are next to something from the 60’s. Money should be spent to at least on the outside make the buildings look old.
8)More green space, flowers, mature trees, water features in general, softening the city
9)Remove high car parking fees Care parking fees need to be dramatically reduced to attract people to the village centre
10)Provide more facilities for young adults such as a cinema, bowling alley, and climbing wall in the town centre. This gives people a reason to come there and then they would also use other facilities and businesses in the process because they. Out of town centres should be discouraged/ no longer perused. It would also make facilities more central for all areas of Wolverhampton districts.
11)Utilise existing unique buildings in a way that keeps their character. There used to be another theatre where the HSBC bank is now on queens square, is it still there behind the scenes in a ruined state? There is a weatherspoons in Llandudno that is in an old theatre, the seats kept exactly the same in the dress circle but the stalls and the stage is now the eating area and bar. This sort of reuse of historic buildings should be actively encouraged- and again is something different from the everyday and special. For another example look at the old joint stock in Birmingham City Centre
12)Allow the mander centre to be used at night for restaurants etc like the Birmingham’s Mail Box, and encourage the use of and development off the canals in the centre to create a Brindley place ( in Birmingham) type development. With a large bridge as previously mention from the main town over the ring road to the canal club, and blue brick area. I would imagine such an area would be really popular. Again multiple road crossings and under passes are a definite stopper on people going to these areas. The bridges could be amazing features in themselves as already mentioned.
13) Make the fountain in queens square larger and more exciting
14)Create 5 large hubs/ clusters of activity in Wolverhampton that can become self sustaining business/ commercial centres of the city
•Queens square and Civic Centre area and adjoining roads •Canal area ( Brindley place style) •Night time mander centre (mail box style) •top end of Lichfield street, theatre, bus station •Re use of industrial buildings ( in Glasgow style) by proposed summer row development, and or the old bus station building by royal hospital. This would stop one attraction being in an area by itself and therefore less likely to survive and give people a bigger reason to move between areas of the city. For example. If i was going out in and around queens square i would not walk all the way to st johns retail park if there was only one pub there. I probably would do however if new that area had a dozens of cafes and bars and shops to choose from if they were right next to one another.
15)Try to create a town centre regeneration fund with donations from local businesses and anyone wanting to give their financial support.
16)Discourage takeways and fast food outlets and encourage a more diverse culinary base- try to create food quarters in the city and attract cultural food we currently don’t have, Japanes, Malaysian, Argentinean steakhouses etc etc- probably could do this through planning usage?? Could be different food in the different hubs? - as before i don’t think its a case of just pulling in what comes along but actively trying to shape what Wolverhampton can offer and sometimes taking a risk and letting a premises go vacant until you get what is right. If this is the case i have heard of scheme that allows start up business to practice in empty shops until a proper lease is adopted for the shop by a long term interested party