Snow Hill Square – A New Gateway to Colmore
Seasoned Colmore BID watchers will know that we’ve done a fair bit of public realm improvement since 2009 when Colmore BID first started. We’ve done it in partnership and we’ve done it on our own. We’ve turned fairly desolate spaces into somewhere nice to stop for a break, somewhere to play some outdoor chess, somewhere to contemplate outdoor photography and even somewhere to install a bronze by an acclaimed sculptor.
But we’ve never done something on the scale of the Snow Hill programme or something on the level of technical difficulty. Ten million pounds’ worth of public realm improvements across the District, with the first bit, known to the project managers as ‘Tranche 1’ or ‘T1’, comprising of revitalising the Square itself, a legacy of a 70’s demolition spree and unfortunate 80’s place-making, along with some enabling works. The enabling works themselves are fairly substantial, including taking out the traffic signals by Lloyd House Police HQ, along with masses of tarmac, and blocking off the right turn at the top of Livery Street. That last item might raise a few eyebrows; I use that turn myself on the odd occasion I have to bring my ancient Volvo into town to fetch something heavy from the office. Fear not, you’ll still be able to access Colmore Row and beyond via Snow Hill Queensway, but the closure of the right turn at the top of Livery Street will bring benefits like a hugely improved pedestrian experience at the top of Livery Street and a 40% reduction in traffic on our business district’s premier street. Add to that swapping the bus stop with the taxi rank to reduce the pedestrian congestion at the top of Livery Street and you can see the picture of a much better place to be on foot.
Snow Hill Square is hollow. All of it. When you stand in the Square you have about 1.4m of stuff beneath your feet and then the suffocating blackness of a railway tunnel carrying the Chiltern mainline to London, or the basement of 1 Colmore Row, depending where you’re standing. So you can imagine the technical difficulties involved in a public realm improvement. Water features are out. Heavy artworks are out. Anything that might damage the railway at all is clearly out. But Broadway Malyan and WYG have done a great job in coming up with an elegant, simple design using high quality materials and an aesthetic that works with the way pedestrians use the Square.
The project has also opened up (almost literally) an opportunity for the owners of 1 Colmore Row to make better use of their basement, including some residual architecture of the Victorian railway station, to create a destination restaurant underground, accessed from a light, airy glass pavilion in the Square itself. Transformational, indeed.
Tranche 1 of the Snow Hill programme is being consulted on between now and 2nd November 2016. If you’d like to make your views known, please click here.