Hull prepares for the spotlight with £19m revamp

How Hull may look
How Hull may look
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THE STAGE is being set for Hull to host City of Culture in 2017.

An exhibition opening today will show the public what the city will look like after its first comprehensive redevelopment since the 1970s.

A new public square, a 10m tall sculpture inspired by the pivotal moment in the city’s history when the gates were shut on King Charles 1, sparking the Civil War, and key buildings lit at night in evocative tones and colours recalling the “golden hour” before the sun goes down, are among the highlights of the £19m first phase project, to be completed by 2017.

The designs by Leeds-based landscape architects re-form aim to make the city centre an easier place to navigate and to encourage people to stay longer. It is estimated the investment could increase city centre retail turnover by as much as £70m and support 500 new jobs in retail and tourism in the next decade.

Re-form’s director Andrew Price said: “Hull is making an investment in its city centre which no other in the north of England is at the moment.

“It is a massive opportunity to completely change how the city centre feels and how people engage with it.

“People don’t spend time in the city - they come, shop and go. We want to glue them to the city.”

In Queen Victoria Square - one of the venues for the city’s Freedom Festival - there will be three rings of interlocked fountain jets, designed by Fountain Workshop, who did the mirror pool at City Park, Bradford. They can be lit at night, and the hope is they will prove a big draw.

The excavated site of historic Beverley Gate where the gates were shut against King Charles will be filled in and covered by a public lawn and a sculpture by award-winning architectural practice Tonkin Liu placed at a spot where all the city centre streets converge. “Word Gate” as it is provisionally known, will have two skins, perforated by letters, on either side and at certain times of the year these will line up to create lines of poetry on the paving.

Prospect Street will be pedestrianised and a new square created outside BHS, with a yet to be revealed sculpture.

Hull-based poet Shane Rhodes, who is working on texts, that will be built into the design, said: “People will moan about the disruption and say the money could have been spent on other things, but I am a great believer that art enhances people’s lives and makes it better.”

Huge changes are also planned for Trinity Square, with the demolition of the churchyard wall of Holy Trinity Church to make one seamless space. Fountains originally planned for the front of the building have been replaced by “more contemplative” mirror pools which will reflect different facets of the ancient building.

The clutter will go, along with tired seating and hundreds of bollards. Worn paving will be replaced by top-notch stone pavements, new clusters of seating introduced and routes through the city will be made more obvious. City major projects manager Garry Taylor said: “This is of Hull and for Hull. We have tried not to be other places; we have looked at the good and bad in other places, but have not just said: ‘We will have that.’

Mr Taylor said the investment by the city council would more than repay itself. “It is essential we are ready not just for our year in the spotlight as UK City of Culture 2017, but beyond this creating a legacy that has tangible benefits,” he added.

• ‘Destination Hull’ is the first time people can see every project planned for the city - including a cruise terminal and conference centre which are post-2017 projects - in one space.

The exhibition which opens at the Ferens Art gallery today continues until August 28 when it closes for a £4m refit.

People will be able to see a CGI-fly through of the Hull Venue, a £36m concert and conference centre capable of taking audiences of up to 3,500 people and currently scheduled to open in 2018.

There will also be screenings of public realm artist Nayan Kulkarni’s “Golden Hour” film showing how key buildings like City Hall and the Maritime Museum will be lit at night.