Chester’s Commonhall Street area was once seen as a backwater but long held aspirations to create a vibrant city centre quarter are slowly taking shape.
Cheshire West and Chester Council made a start on the project by restoring the entrance to Commonhall Street through reinstating cobbles and erecting timber bollards.
And Chester Growth Partnership – a private-public sector partnership – sees the area at the rear of Bridge Street and Watergate Street as a future opportunity for regeneration according to its latest investment prospectus.
Economic development has faltered in the past but now the Commonhall St Social pub is thriving alongside designer homeware shops and the popular Hanky Panky Pancakes; there is a 61-bed student complex in the old Chronicle House building plus new town houses and apartments have sprung up among existing terraced homes.
There is still work to be done in tidying up the neighbourhood which serves as a rear service area for many city centre businesses. And the new apartment scheme delivered by Westby Homes North West Ltd needs completing after the company went into administration. But the fact one of Chester’s most successful restaurants, Chef’s Table, considered locating a second dining venue here shows how far the area has come.
Chester Growth Partnership tells potential investors in its investment document: “The Commonhall Street quarter of Chester is centrally located within the city walls and offers a unique environment adjacent to the historic core, in close proximity to a number of key regeneration projects in the city, notably the Northgate redevelopment.
“The area enjoys direct pedestrian linkages to the primary retail frontages of Watergate Street and Bridge Street and on to the upper levels of the city’s historic Rows. Bridge Street possesses a ‘continental charm’ with a developing evening economy, café culture and specialist shops.
“The area has benefitted from significant recent residential development but offers considerable scope for future investment and regeneration. Commonhall Street represents an opportunity to develop the thriving living and working quarter within the heart of the city.”
This vision is in line with the One City Plan, a blueprint drawn up following input from more than 200 stakeholders, with the aim of enhancing Chester’s reputation as a world-class destination. Their proposal foresaw Commonhall Street becoming a hub for small and starter businesses and a cultural living quarter.
The street is named after an early type of court based in that area of the city called the Commonhall of Pleas built in the 13th century. Its work moved to St Nicholas Chapel in the 16th century but the name has remained.