The momentum of change in Newcastle city centre, which accelerated in the 1970s with the completion of the Eldon Square shopping centre, has seen further substantial improvements over the last 3 decades towards establishing its reputation as a regional retail centre, commercial core and leisure destination.
The historic Grainger Town fixed fabric conservation area, with a myriad of listed buildings, has established itself as a mixed use urban quarter alongside a strong retail centre with bolt on leisure areas including China Town, Theatre Village and the most impressive Newcastle Quayside.
Investment in transport infrastructure has enhanced the environment within the city centre as a result of major highway improvements. The Central Motorway East, Western by Pass, St James Boulevard and the construction of the Tyneside Metro has strengthened the city centre core. The Metro has connected towns on both sides of the Tyne as well as a fast link to Newcastle International Airport.
The 1980s / 90s heralded the arrival of enhanced central government funding by way of the Tyne & Wear Development Corporation which invested in several “flagship schemes” within the city and metropolitan boroughs on the banks of the rivers Tyne and Wear. The most dramatic impact is seen on the Newcastle Quayside which has transformed an urban hinterland into an attractive environment with improved links to Gateshead, encompassing a mix of high quality employment, leisure and residential schemes.
The constraints of the listed buildings and conservation area issues prevented large scale modern office development of large floor plates within the city centre and, as a result, major occupiers and professional companies relocated to state of the art offices within the East Quayside area. This imbalance has been arrested in recent years by the development of modern large floorplate offices within the city centre and fringe areas including Newcastle Helix (formerly Science Central), St James Boulevard, Stephenson Quarter and the emerging East Pilgrim Street regeneration scheme.
The city council has attracted significant central government funding by way of City Challenge, Single Regeneration and Going for Growth programmes and initiatives. These have created an investment scenario attractive to major developers and investors which include Legal and General, Taras Properties and locally based companies.
Newcastle and Gateshead has seen massive improvement over recent years and can offer development opportunities, sites and properties attractive to investors, developers and inward investment occupiers. The change over my working career has been both positive and most welcome.