Nottingham-based retail analyst Nelson Blackley adds context and comment to the report yesterday that eleven shops on Bridlesmith Gate and three on Lister Gate have been purchased with a view to create a ‘Carnaby Street’ style destination for Nottingham.
I think this is positive news for several reasons.
Since the early 1970s, when Nottingham’s Victoria and Broadmarsh Shopping centres first opened, and Nottingham’s ‘retail centre of gravity’ which had been around Old Market Square moved, Bridlesmith Gate (along with Clumber Street and Low Pavement) have been part of the key north-south ‘retail axis’ in the city.
However. Bridlesmith Gate has a much longer history and although even today it is a narrow thoroughfare, it’s difficult to imagine that all through the middle ages and even
until the 19th century it was the main shopping street in Nottingham and formed part of a London to Leeds coach route!
Over two centuries ago, in 1819 the street was much tidied up and modernised, the footway was paved, and the carriage track was re-paved with boulders.
Apparently, civic leaders involved were so pleased with this improvement that they changed the name from the ancient one of Bridlesmith Gate to Bond Street, after the well-known street in London which was just then attracting general attention.
Whilst evidently this change did not meet with public approval and was soon abandoned, this provides a fascinating 21st Century parallel with the ambitions of the new owner of many of the retail units of making the area similar to Carnaby Street, another iconic London retail location.
One of the biggest problems local authorities across the UK have experienced in seeking to renew and transform their retail centres and ‘High Streets’ over the past decade has been the identification and engagement with the owners of each retail property.
Many are owned by third parties or shadow international companies who are both difficult to identify and to engage with.
Many also have no established link or commitment with the local city, town, or community.
However, this move by local firm ALB Group to acquire eleven properties in Bridlesmith Gate and Byard Lane as well as a further three units in nearby Lister Gate, and given that their MD Arran Bailey is Nottingham-born, might seem to suggest that his hope to ‘kick-start a resurgence in the city’ has real potential with the opportunity for new, independent operators to acquire premises with affordable rents.
Given that Paul Smith opened his first shop in Byard Lane just off BridlesmithGate in 1970 and now trades in Nottingham from a flagship store in Willoughby House on nearby Low Pavement, I like the ALB ambition to make this area cool again and to bring a vibrancy back that Nottingham was once known for.
I also applaud their vision for this southern end of the Nottingham city centre, to encourage independent retailers, restaurants, bars and coffee shops to get on board for a reawakened café culture and thriving retail district.