Upper Precinct development progresses to next steps

Work to install new seating areas, a water feature and trees and plants is now underway.

Photo credit: Gwydion M. Williams

The Upper Precinct was originally the vision of Coventry’s first City Architect and Planning Officer, Sir Donald Gibson, and was built as part of the Gibson Plan.This post-war reconstruction masterplan which sought to rebuild the city is now being reborn as part of the ambitious new development works in the area.

At the time of its construction in the 1950s, the Upper Precinct, which was reportedly the first pedestrianised shopping centre in Europe, was heralded for its pioneering design and attracted architectural students from around the world.

But the installation of the large green escalators in the middle of the precinct in the 1990s, plus other later additions, proved controversial and went against Gibson’s original plan.

Now work by Coventry City Council and Shearer Property Group is taking place to radically transform the Upper Precinct.

The escalator and bridge link have already been removed and work to install new seating areas, a water feature and trees and plants is now progressing, expected to be completed by the end of this year in time for 2021 UK City of Culture.

Improvements to the city centre will be showcased at MIPIM, the world’s largest commercial property development and investment show, in March.

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, Cabinet Member for Jobs and Regeneration, said the improvements were key to improving the look and appeal of the city centre.

He said: “The redevelopment is radically enhancing the Upper Precinct, Smithford Way and Market Way and will transform shoppers’ and visitor experience in the city. 

“The removal of the green escalator has opened up the space and already gives a really good idea of how the new Upper Precinct will look once the work is complete.

“Coventry Cathedral is the pride of the city so it is great that the view up towards the Cathedral is no longer obscured by the cumbersome and unsightly green escalator.

“Successful cities have to reinvent themselves and move with the times so I’m pleased that we will be keeping the best of the old alongside the best of the new as well as honouring Sir Donald Gibson’s original plan.”

Shearer Property Group was the company which transformed the city’s Cathedral Lanes shopping centre into a new restaurant quarter by bringing many national brands to the city for the first time.

Stewart Underwood, Director of Shearer Property Group, said: “This transformation of the city’s prime retail area is part of our shared vision conceived by the City Council several years ago which began with the pedestrianisation and new public realm in the Broadgate and High Street areas, the removal of some later buildings and the repositioning of Cathedral Lanes as a quality bar and restaurant leisure quarter.

“This successful collaboration between us and the Council is driving the transformation of the city centre.

“It was important for us to return the Precinct to Gibson’s original vision and restore it as an appealing destination which shoppers and visitors will want to return to.  we did exactly the same with the redevelopment of Cathedral Lanes which has been a huge boost for the city centre.

“The work will be completed by the end of the year, the transformation so far is stunning and we have had great feedback.”