City centre regeneration, integrating seamlessly with quintessential aesthetic of Chester
Chester Northgate is a new shopping and leisure destination in the heart of Chester City Centre. With a new market hall, six-screen cinema, cafés, bars and restaurants, a co-working office space, a new public square and an 800 space, multi-storey car park, this regenerative masterplan will revitalise the city centre.
Much of the complex site had existing constraints, which we needed to manage. We will contain most of the new commercial space in a refurbished, historically sensitive, former library, which we have also extended, to reflect the archetypal aesthetic of Chester architecture, with a modern twist.
We were appointed to take over the design of the scheme, which had struggled with affordability and practicality and had also been impacted by challenges in the retail sector. Consequently, we have delivered a masterplan within a very tight budget, which adheres to a variety of planning constraints.
before and after
An attractive, stylish car park welcoming visitors to the development
Our 800 space, multi-storey car park has been designed to complement the overall look and feel of Chester Northgate. With a living green wall helping the building blend in seamlessly with the landscape, the car park also provides essential accessibility and security for visitors.
A mixed use masterplan, with dynamic public realm
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CW&C) wanted to build on the success of the nearby, previously redeveloped Chester Storyhouse, which is a refurbished theatre cinema and library complex. Phase 1 of the Chester Northgate development will continue to develop Chester's cultural offerings, providing new leisure and hospitality spaces.
The development is designed around a large, vibrant public square, with flexible spaces to socialise and rest. By including shared community spaces, with seating and an enhanced public realm, social and cultural activities will be encouraged such as music events, public art exhibitions and street performances and dwell time will be increased.
In sites with existing archaeological constraints, it can often be difficult to deliver green spaces within them. This was also a requirement of CW&C. To incorporate soft landscaping within the development we have included planting and a feature green wall within the market square. The car park is also clad in a mix of perforated metal panels and green wall panels which softens the structure and reflects the nearby rural landscape.
The market square links Northgate Street and the city centre through a new arcade – Hunters Walk. We have remodelled a former library building and added a new build extension at the rear, to create this modern arcade, which contains new retail units.
At the end of the arcade furthest from the market square, is a magnificent, historically sensitive frontage which we have brought back to life, by using this as the entrance to the Northgate development.
challenge and solution
Managing the historical context and archaeological constraints of a complex site
Around the site are existing heritage assets including the Grade II listed Town Hall and Little Abbey Gateway - a Scheduled Ancient Monument. We needed to navigate significant archaeological constraints, whilst retaining the existing planning requirements. We worked closely with heritage consultants Oxford Archaeology to define a notional archaeology plane across the site. This meant that no more than 2% of surface area could be disturbed, despite the archaeology being close to the existing surface in many locations.
After reviewing and modelling the archaeological requirements in 3D, we worked with consultants, Curtins, to manage the historic context of the site sensitively. We then successfully presented our proposal to Historic England, the planners and conservation groups, which gained more confidence in our design than previous proposals.
The site is steeply sloped by 1.6 - 1.8m, which was challenging in terms of accessibility and co-ordinating the structure and floor slabs with the existing archaeological features.
Our design steps the floorplates up the slope, providing different floor levels and connections between the buildings and includes an external lift, giving upper-level accessibility to the mobility impaired. To do this we needed to carefully coordinate different zones and levels of archaeology, to ensure that pile caps, floor slabs, retaining walls and services did not penetrate through the archaeology layers of Roman remains.
The heart of the Chester Northgate
The new indoor market sits at the heart of the scheme and offers an array of services, from restaurants, bars, delis and butchers, all from a range of independent traders.
The market hall has seen visitors more than trebling the peak pre-pandemic existing market footfall. Around 600,000 visitors in its first few months has supported the economic regeneration of the city.
The market has been designed to reflect Chester's distinct heritage, drawing inspiration from the city and the environment, combined with a modern touch to attract a whole range of visitors.
Integrated into our design is a selection of comfortable, casual and sociable seats, offering visitors the opportunity to sit, eat and relax at their own pace.
Accommodating the requirements of many tenants, whilst maintaining the project programme
Chester Northgate is a series of buildings with multiple tenants, each of which has their own Agreement for Lease requirements. These were challenging to the design as they imposed further constraints.
In order to find a solution, we needed to be involved in outlining the lease agreements and ensuring that they were agreeable to all. This ensured that the requirements could be integrated into the design, especially in terms of coordinating MEP (Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing) services and risers on a multi-storey, multi-use building.
As well as conducting a full public consultation, we engaged with over 100 involved stakeholders involved, including Historic England, Members Working Group, CW&C Planning, CW&C Design Review Panel, Chester Civic Society, Local Business Groups, Disabled Access Forum, and Market traders. All of whom needed to be provided for individually, to ensure that their needs were met and that the project would not be delayed.
Cheshire West and Chester Council
18, 400 m2
New market hall
New public square
We created a strategic masterplan for the regeneration of the wider Birkenhead area, dividing the site into areas to be developed individually, connected via a reinvigorated public realm.
Our regenerative masterplan for Keynsham’s town centre is based around giving space back to the community and enhancing the surrounding public realm.
Project Anchor Enterprise and Innovation Hub
Flexible, agile and dynamic workspace alongside a 46-bed student accommodation wing, specifically for key workers.