The council’s cabinet has given its approval for procurement to begin as the local authority seeks a partner to redesign Town Hall Square.
The first stage of an £8.9m Heritage Lottery Fund bid was approved for the grade one-listed town hall itself in early May, with £886,000 awarded to begin a restoration programme.
Rochdale said that while Town Hall Square plans will be developed by architects and consulted on with the public, ideas at the outset include the repurposing of road junctions in the area to make it more pedestrian friendly, with one option being to close the Esplanade, whixh runs across the front of the town hall, to traffic to create a large scale events space.
The immediate area also includes heritage assets such as the listed Cenotaph, St Chad’s Saxon church and the General Post Office building, while the council also hopes to improve linkages to the art gallery and Touchstones Museum.
Cllr Janet Emsley, cabinet member for culture, said: “This is an incredibly important part of the town centre. We need to ensure that Town Hall Square lives up to its beautiful surroundings, particularly now that we have secured Lottery support to turn the town hall into a major visitor attraction and completed our river re-opening project.
“Our town centre has already benefitted from a £250m transformation and improving the public realm and heritage offer is a major part of our plans for the next phase of regeneration. This exciting project will help give Town Hall Square pride of place in our rapidly improving town centre.”
The council, working with Rochdale Development Agency, is hoping to appoint an architect in September. with any proposals set to go out to public consultation before work begins on site.
Other projects ongoing in Rochdale include the Heritage Action Zone, where the council is working with Historic England over five years to bring a number of historic buildings back into use as businesses and homes in and around Drake Street.
Rochdale has already committed £1.6m to the project and is seeking a Historic England grant of £500,000.