From Fruit Market regeneration to the energy estuary, Hull looks set for a glorious new chapter - Mark Casci

It is incredible to think how far the Fruit Market in Hull has come in recent years.

As far back as the 16th century it was a vibrant hub of commercial activity.

Fruit and vegetables, fresh off ships berthed in the city’s docks would be traded or packed onto wagons or later lorries, to be sold around the North of England.

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Indeed, at its height, some 20,000 lettuces a week were sold by the Fruit Market’s wholesalers.

The area in the 1960s.The area in the 1960s.
The area in the 1960s.

Not even the blitz, which hit Hull hard, could dampen the spirit of the area, despite the destruction of some of its most impressive buildings.

However in 2009 the music stopped. Humber Street and the surrounding area fell silent after Hull City Council removed the remaining traders to a new out-of-town site.

Regeneration plans were afoot but the financial crisis and ensuing recession knocked them for six. But, Hull being Hull, the rot never set in.

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Desolate buildings originally scheduled for demolition were instead colonised by artists and creative types who ‘self-gentrified’ the area, looking for cheap studio space.

The future of the Fruit Market looks bright.The future of the Fruit Market looks bright.
The future of the Fruit Market looks bright.

And as the economy picked up so did the region’s business and civic communities.

Developer Wykeland, along with Beal Homes and the city’s council, quickly hatched plans to give the Fruit Market a new lease of life.

The £80m transformation is not only Hull’s biggest urban regeneration project, it is arguably the most impressive in Yorkshire.

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An ongoing wave of investment in creative and digital businesses has been seen.

Fruit Market now bustling with activity.Fruit Market now bustling with activity.
Fruit Market now bustling with activity.

Restaurants, bars, galleries and shops have proliferated, creating one of the most vibrant and fastest-growing communities in the North.

And business has flocked to this opportunity.

Thriving firms such as C4DI, CatZero, Hudgells Solicitors, Label Worx and Shootfactory now call the Fruit Market home, along with some 300 odd people who now live in the area.

We now learn this week that one of the UK’s fastest-growing financial tech brands is set to join the party.

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Dojo has relocated its 190-strong Hull team to a new home in the £3.75m fourth building within developer Wykeland Group’s @TheDock tech campus, also home to C4DI.

The move is the latest game-changing moment for the Fruit Market.

Dojo is a nationally recognised brand and is not only sticking with its native Hull, it is acting to help with the ongoing regeneration effort.

Its track record is outstanding and it will only grow as a business, both in terms of revenue and headcount.

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The Fruit Market serves as an impressive metaphor for the wider journey that Hull has been on.

The city never gets the attention and affection that say York, Leeds or Sheffield does.

But while it may not possess the tourism or financial clout of some of its neighbours, it is the epicentre of perhaps the most promising and future facing industry the country has.

I am of course talking about renewable energy.

The ‘energy estuary’ as it has been dubbed is a hub for wind turbine manufacturing, rare earth processing and other clean energy processes that will transform the country in terms of how it is powered.

I am not alone in this view.

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Tony Danker, director general of the CBI, is on record as saying that Yorkshire has the potential to be a world-leading epicentre for green energy and Hull and its surrounding areas are the tip of this mighty spear.

This, along with the Fruit Market’s revival and the wider spring in the step that the City of Culture 2017 brought to the city, promises to begin a legendary new chapter for Hull.

It is a phenomenon typical for Hull.

Thanks in part to its geographical location and its people’s unique character, Hull is a place which has always reinvented itself.

With such a powerful wind in its sails, the likes of York and Leeds may soon be looking over their shoulders as it powers into the future.