Regeneration vision for city's 'forgotten' Rows

Chester Renaissance to seek funding to put Chester's historic Rows 'back on the map'

CHESTER - Bridge Street Rows - General views of the row, with many premises left empty after businesses have shut down.

Chester’s depleted Rows have been “forgotten” in favour of our Roman history, but could be transformed back into a must-see world attraction as part of a regeneration vision, say city leaders.

In recent years businesses on the Rows have struggled to survive, as the historic landmark has been blighted by drink-fuelled antisocial behaviour, graffiti attacks, revellers using it as a public toilet and, at times, for lewd acts.

But it is hoped that the “jewel of Chester” could finally get the World Heritage Status it deserves, if Chester Renaissance can secure funding for a vision for an extensive regeneration project they believe will put the Rows and their medieval history “back on the map”.

Chester Rows where many businesses have shut down
 

In an exclusive interview with the Chronicle, chairman of Chester Renaissance Eric Langton, said that the city’s medieval history had been “neglected” in favour of the Roman history, and that some visitors ‘didn’t even know’ they could go up on the Rows, which are unique to Chester.

The regeneration project plans are still only in the early stages but Mr Langton said the vision includes:

  • Improving access by opening up the narrow steps;
  • An “Innovation Centre” to bring the medieval history to life;
  • Opening up the crypts for visitors, repainting and lighting up the landmark;
  • Signage to let people know they can go on the Rows;
  • Reenactment actors and volunteer guides on the Rows;
  • More unique shops, which will thrive if the area is more of an experience.

“The Rows are absolutely the jewel of the city,” said Mr Langton, who said Chester Renaissance were working with Chester Civic Trust, Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) and consultants Turner Townsend towards securing funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the project.

“Our medieval story, not only the Rows, has been neglected, to some extent we have concentrated on the Roman heritage.

“We have got as good a story to tell about Chester’s medieval heritage. Some of the visitors do not even realise they can go on the Rows.”

Mr Langton explained that the whole city would need to get behind the project, which he hoped would entice visitors up to the Rows to shop, look at the unique architecture, learn about the history and transform the area into a “thriving” shopping and educational area.

In 2011 the Rows missed out on World Heritage Status, but Mr Langton said that he hoped that the landmark would finally get the “recognition it deserved” following the potential regeneration project, which he hoped would be completed by 2020.

Residents may be sceptical about Renaissance’s vision, which comes after the failed Portas’ Pilots bid for the Rows and the City of Culture bid, but Mr Langton urged people to get behind the scheme and to “vocally support it”.

“I am over the moon that we have the opportunity through Renaissance and the One City Plan to try and put some of these ideas together. I will be heartbroken if it fails,” he said.

But before they can put in their funding application, Chester Renaissance and CWaC are looking into ownership of the units on the Rows, which are owned by different landlords.

 
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