The £6.2m redevelopment of a historic city’s dated gateway aims to attract a major retailer to the rundown street.
Details of the transformation of Durham’s North Road have been revealed as the county council’s cabinet prepare to discuss the multi-million-pound proposal.
With 70 social services staff currently being redeployed to offices elsewhere in the area, Hopper House will be demolished making way for a new bus station and project turning the A690 roundabout into a crossroads junction.
With the dated 1970s bus station no longer needed, it’s hoped the vast site at the top of North Road will be able to attract an “anchor store” to help revitalise retail in North Road, said to have suffered in recent years as centres and supermarkets open up in other parts of the city.
Despite boasting a World Heritage Site the first experience thousands of Durham visitors have stepping off the train or bus is North Road, believed by some to be outdated and in need of modernisation.
Coun David Freeman, representing the areas of Gilesgate and Elvet in Durham, said: “I have been pushing for the redevelopment of the area for a number of years.
“The state of North Road is extremely poor. Coming off the bus people’s first experience of Durham is the street and in its present condition it is really not fit for a historic city.
“It will be interesting to see what sort of retailer the council can attract but hopefully having a large store on North Road will encourage other shops and businesses. Over the years the retail focus has moved away from North Road and hopefully this regeneration will make it a lot better.
“The plans are certainly welcome but I think it will be another couple of years before we start to see what the area could look like.”
While it already owns some of the buildings earmarked for development Durham County Council is in talks with Age Concern and Metcalfe House which fall within the project zone.
There would be no changes to the Grade-II listed Methodist Church but an outdoor area known as ‘North Place’ will be created to “provide a more respectful setting for the church and to help draw the public through a revitalised North Road.”
A council spokesman added: “This work enables the existing bus station site to be used for a key retailer to encourage more shoppers and a further 200,000sq ft of adjacent office and shop space. The changes will create a much improved look and feel to the entrance to the city.”
A public consultation on the project will be held at the Blockbuster video store in North Road on May 1 and May 2 from noon till 6pm.