Part-demolished shopping centre = kids’ playground?

Posted by Derek Mason

1st March 2022

Caption: Nottingham’s current skyline. Photo credit: Tom Podmore on Unsplash

Nottingham leads the way in city centre redevelopment, with radical plans for a part-demolished shopping centre.

Reusing rather than demolishing is the only way the construction industry can hit ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions, so a radical plan for Nottingham’s Broadmarsh shopping centre isn’t as outlandish as it might initially sound.

Thomas Heatherwick, the designer behind the new Routemaster bus design, Coal Drops Yard in Kings Cross, and the now-cancelled Garden Bridge project has proposed incorporating the part-demolished shopping centre into a new plan for Nottingham city centre.

The scheme is called the Frame and will see a complete makeover of the Broadmarsh centre. The mall was built in 1975 and was partway through a redevelopment when the owner, Intu, went into administration in 2020.

After the original redevelopment had to be shelved, Nottingham city council took over the lease and launched a public consultation to decide on the future of the site.

The new design on the table includes a climbing wall and huge trampoline, or an events space for boxing or music. The £500m plan also includes shops and leisure space, 750 new homes, a hotel, conference facilities and offices.

There will also be a new park area called Lister Square, centred around an oak tree from the nearby Sherwood Forest. This will enhance access to heritage sites including the city’s network of caves.

Thomas Heatherwick has said, “The challenge of what to do with the former Broadmarsh shopping centre has been a chance to think about the failure of our city centres. They should be about bringing people together, not just about retail. Rather than demolish the structure, we are proposing to keep the frame and breathe new life into it, creating a place that can hold the diversity and vibrancy that is so lacking from many city centres.”

Responses to the design from the people of Nottingham have been mixed, and at this point it’s not clear where funding will come from for the project. If the scheme goes ahead it’s expected to take a decade to complete, creating 3,000 jobs along the way.

There’s no doubt that city centres need to change, especially after the events of the last two years, and I think we will see more and more designs where reuse is prioritised over demolition.

It will be difficult to meet the target for net zero carbon by 2050 without more designers and developers incorporating reuse and recycling into their work. I’m sure we’ll reach a point where it becomes more difficult to get schemes approved unless the plans actively tackle the need to reduce carbon emissions.

If the Nottingham scheme goes ahead, it will be interesting to see the redevelopments that might follow suit in other UK towns and cities.

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