Preston’s momentum mustn’t stop at making its public realm look good: an innovative city-living strategy could be the key to its continued success, writes John Bridge of architect Studio John Bridge.
The future of Preston has felt up in the air in recent years, but since the regeneration of the city’s market, I feel that our council have shown the public that they mean business.
With the latest launch of the Stoneygate Masterplan, this energy and confidence is demonstrated further. Investing in Preston is a no brainer, but investing in the right way is key. It seems simple writing this out loud, but with the branded phrase ‘Preston Model’, there exists a process to the key of regeneration success.
Experience and resources are important foundations of any project, but combine that with local talent, knowledge and a deep passion for place and culture, and a fine “regeneration cocktail” can be concocted. That, I feel, is crucial for Preston’s renaissance to continue.
After the scrapping of the Tithebarn Project, which would have seen a major retail-led development of the city centre, redevelopment has taken a more local and inward investment approach. Now with the growth of the council’s city living strategy taking off, there is much more potential return on investment for developers. Those who invest in design-led schemes will see that paying dividends by raising the rental and sales values. It goes to show that if you build it well, the people will come.
The improved night life offer works towards an incentivised approach to retain traffic into the evening. Combined with investment into public realm, the award-winning Preston Bus Station and restored Winckley Square park, the city has never felt so loved. But it mustn’t stop there. The final pieces in the puzzle are far from complete, and further investment is required to realise the many more ideas and aims that we have for our city.
One of the ways our Council and business community have tried to steer this has been through the formation of a Preston Partnership. Having been formalised as a CIC in 2018, the goal is to support, inspire and help “connect the dots” with investors, professionals and the local authorities for economic success.
Preston born and bred, I have always dreamt of developing my home city into a thriving, sustainable eco-friendly place. A core purpose in my professional career to date has been to open people’s eyes to opportunity through creative thinking. With my continual love for Preston I plan to work on bringing people together, renovating buildings and spaces, and building new innovative architecture. As an architect, I have no shame in admitting that I want to look back when I’m old, and smile in all that we achieved, and how I have personally done my bit for our environment, our culture, and our city.