Up Your Street: Hope Street, L1

Hope & Deliverance

It’s official - in Hope Street Liverpool has the best urban street in Europe. Not that we were in any doubt, of course…

Sometimes the world takes a while to catch up with things we’ve already known. So it was little surprise to us when, this month, Hope Street claimed its rightful prize: as the UK’s best street in the Academy of Urbanism’s Great Street Award, recognising the best examples of urban places throughout Europe.

“Hope Street is a truly urban street,” says the Academy’s Stephen Gallagher.

“It’s at the threshold of the city centre, but enjoys a strong physical character defined by the high quality of architecture, and a high level of interconnection with surrounding streets.”

That seamless transition was helped in 2006, when the street received its £2.9 million regeneration, complete with new pavements, safer crossings, and sturdy suitcases! It was a facelift that didn’t go unnoticed.

“The reprioritization of traffic management meant that Hope Street successfully encouraged pedestrian functions and ease of movement,” says Gallagher, “creating a safe and friendly pedestrian environment and, ultimately shifting attitudes about car use.”

It’s an attitude that’s sticking around, too. Hope Street has been identified as one of five ‘Great Streets’ in the city’s ambitious new Strategic Investment Framework, and will see a greater emphasis on pedestrian-friendly access, links to the Knowledge Quarter (anchoring the Metropolitan Cathedral end of the street) and pockets of green spaces for city users to recharge in (especially the sunken treasure of St James Gardens, anchoring the Anglican Cathedral end of the street).

In other words, if you think the street’s world class now, the best is yet to come.

“Hope Street  has an excellent mix of cultural venues ranging from the Philharmonic Hall (and famous pub), the Everyman and Unity Theatres, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), Blackburne House (Women’s Centre) and Liverpool Art College,” says Gallagher. “This is truly an urban street performing as a destination as well as a place of urban interconnection.”

That interconnection has been driven by the recent creation of the Hope Street Community Investment Company -  set up to capitalise on the street’s burgeoning popularity. Its members are those selfsame cultural organisations, pulling together to make Hope Street rise above the rest (just as the street itself, set on an escarpment above the city, does. On a clear day, the views over to Wales from here are breathtaking).

Of course, like all streets, Hope’s has had a chequered past.

“Just ten years ago Hope Street was dominated by vehicles with a public realm arranged more for the free movement of cars and parking than human interaction, but Liverpool’s public realm scheme has acted as a major catalyst in creating the right environmental conditions to attract private sector investment to raise the profile of the area,” he says.

The Hope Street group, set up in 2009, has worked tirelessly to promote the street as a major asset in Liverpool’s tourism economy, adding a calendar of events  - from art shows at the stunning new Metropolitan Cathedral Piazza, to Hope Street fairs and Festivals.

Nicholas Baskerville runs the Really Now events company, responsible for many of the city’s most exciting shindigs - and this week’s hotly anticipated Hope Street Christmas Fair, at Blackburne House. He’s in no-doubt, this is one very singular street.

“Hope Street was the first place I visited when I came to Liverpool,” he says. “ I’ve since studied there, lived there and worked there.   I’m happy and proud to be back coordinating the Christmas Fair  on the 1st of December.”

“For me there are many features of Hope Street that help define its distinct contribution to Liverpool culture, from attending the Hope St. Feast - an event we are proud to be involved in, to drinking with the Philharmonic orchestra in the Belvedere, eating out at the Clove Hitch or the Side Door and just walking through from one cathedral to the other admiring the incredible architecture.  It’s great working in a space where you’re continually inspired by your environment,” he says.

Great events and restaurants are one thing, but for their part, the Academy of Urbanism is unanimous in their praise of the street’s physical structure, too.

“The design and detailing of the public realm works is excellent,” Gallagher says. “Footpaths have been widened and realigned to allow the free movement of pedestrians up and down and across the street. When walking, the route feels quite natural – as it should. Much of the existing York stone paving has been retained, and where needed, new stone and matching granite for kerbs has been brought in to produce a street and public realm that has a historic feel and character, appropriate to the surrounding buildings.

“Highway clutter has been removed throughout and the new paved carriageway in front of the Philharmonic Hall has beautiful part-polished stone bollards,”

We, who use and love Hope Street, might not notice the part-polished bollards. We might not even visit the Christmas Fair. We might love Hope Street because it’s home to our favourite restaurant (whether that’s 60 Hope Street, Host or The Side Door), we might be regulars in the Franz and Liszt rooms of the Philharmonic Dining Halls. Or we might just be learning a few new moves at the Merseyside Dance Initiative‘s studios.

Hope Street is a street for all seasons, for everybody. A street that is continuously transforming, shifting and surprising.

A street that can only be in Liverpool.

Hope Street, Liverpool, L1 9BP

Date created: November 27, 2012

i’m liverpool

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