Brendan Kilpatrick, Senior Partner at PRP, explains how we're helping to reshape the city of Truro in Cornwall.
Urban centres need special attention at the moment as we dust down the experiences of the pandemic and begin to work less and less from home. Some will fare better than others depending on local economics, transport infrastructure, environmental issues and funding streams. Each condition requires a bespoke response to post-pandemic shifts in work patterns and to the digitisation of retail.
Our work in Truro is a case in point. A project which commenced prior to the Covid emergency is a golden opportunity to provide such a solution and act as an exemplar for other regional centres.
Truro, despite being the principal city in Cornwall, goes to sleep at 6.00pm. It should be staying awake a lot longer than that given its historical assets. These include a perfectly positioned cathedral, beautifully preserved Georgian streets, and a jaw-dropping engineering marvel - a railway viaduct designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. A river runs through it but you wouldn’t know it. In fact, there are multiple river networks flowing below or adjacent to the city streets. All of this, and yet the city’s centre is struggling to survive.
A whole quadrant of the city centre is given over to lightly used car parks and semi-redundant council buildings. It is at odds with the historic street pattern. The regeneration of this quarter could help to arrest the commercial and social decline of the city.
A mixed-use development is being planned to complement the existing facilities in the city centre. Over 300 new homes will bring a financial injection. These homes sit within a masterplan which extends the city-centre and links its heritage assets. The river bank is celebrated with new cafés and natural play provision along the river’s edge. This enhancement of the river’s edge is part of a huge bio-diversity gain which includes the planting of 100 new trees. 400 students are coming from a local university, establishing a city-centre creative learning hive with a future-facing syllabus.
The university accommodation will have an inter-generational focus with students living adjacent to older people and providing incidental assistance and companionship. The students and the older residents will also boost the local economy. Small office modules will provide opportunities for start-ups within the masterplan. An existing bowling alley on the site will be relocated within an early phase of development.
A much-needed new hotel will be provided in a later phase. The masterplan itself addresses the context and topography of the city, extending its river walks, interlinking with the major thoroughfares of the city, respecting the dramatic backdrop of the viaduct and producing an architecture which will have modern interpretations of its traditional Cornish architectural detailing. The post-pandemic urge to enjoy our open spaces is given high consideration – 64% of the masterplan will be open space accessible by all.
This potent mix of uses and the quality and quantity of the public realm will provide a catalyst for further development and investment on the edges of the masterplan. It is a flag in the ground for this city.
By Brendan Kilpatrick, Senior Partner at PRP