The Broad Street Mall was purchased by new owners in May 2015. Since then we’ve heard nothing of their plans for the site. That is until this month when a planning application has been submitted to the council. Sadly the limit of the ambition, at this stage at least, is to re-brand the signs on each of the entrances to the mall. So let’s take this opportunity to give the new owners some ideas on how they could bring vast improvements to this part of Reading, and potentially make some money along the way.
Here is the Reading-On-Thames vision for the Broad Street Mall. The core premise is that Reading does not need two large indoor shopping malls. A comprehensive redevelopment of the 1971 scheme should comprise several distinct blocks separated by open streets and squares. The 1990’s pedestrianisation of central Reading has been a phenomenal success, and here is the opportunity to extend that further.
I suggest that the “town centre bus loop”, as it’s become known, could turn into Hosier Street from in front of the Minster church. Hosier Street could be extended through the Broad Street Mall site to join Oxford Road opposite Cheapside. Buses would use Cheapside to access Friar Street and the Station. That route, available in both directions, allows extensive further pedestrianisation: Oxford Road from Cheapside to Broad Street; West Street; and St Mary’s Butts from the Minster to Broad Street.
The new road through the development would provide bus stops and footfall to the heart of the scheme. A New Market Square would provide a home for the market, surrounded by ground floor retail and apartments above. To compensate the owners for providing a public street through their land, they would be given the small council-owned site south of Hosier Street that was once planned to house replacement civic offices. They would also be given some land to encroach on the now-pedestrianised stretches of Oxford Road and St Mary’s Butts.
The area in front of the Minster would become traffic-free, and restaurants would line the St Mary’s Butts boundary to the development, complementing those already found on the east side of the road and cementing this zone’s status as a thriving evening destination.
At the northern end of the scheme, the stretch of Oxford Road would now feel like an extension of the core Broad Street shopping area, but added vitality would come from a new public square, heeding calls from this blog to address this weakness in Reading. The new McIlroy’s Square would be lined up to face the centre of the frontage of the former McIlroy’s department store on Oxford Road, with shops and cafes lining its perimeter and fountains in the middle. Sunlight would be allowed to stream in over a low-rise pavilion unit separating the area from the market square to the south.
The layout also permits a phased delivery, with the Argos, New Look and Fountain House office block retained, together with a reconfigured car park, whilst the eastern half is demolished for the new road and new blocks.
Let’s hope new owners Moorgarth are thinking bold for their vision for Reading, by which I mean far more than a bold logo. An open-street development could provide upgraded retail, significantly enhanced leisure, new public squares and attractive streets. In addition, it could probably include upwards of 300 apartments, earning the developers a small fortune to boot. So come on Moorgarth, let’s get to work.Follow @readingonthames
7 thoughts on “FAO the Broad Street Mall’s new owners”
Enjoying the blog. Outdoor streets is a great idea, however i must disagree on the diverting of buses through the site as the one way town centre loop is already a failure as regards to holding up vehicles and should the town move on toward a form of transport better than the buses a dual directional route right through the middle of town is still needed. Personally i would have pedestrianised Friar street rather than Broad street all those years ago which would have led to all town centre side streets, Market place, Queen victoria street and Station road being traffic free, leaving Broad street, West street and St mary’s butts open for free bus movement.
Also, this site demolished many streets of which the names could be revived in your masterplan giving a nod to history too.
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Thanks Reading General.
I tried to find the old road names when writing the post but the only old maps I could find online had insufficient resolution to make out the names. Do you know any?
If you’re referring to trams in terms of your statement about superior to buses, then they could potentially use my newly pedestrianised St Marys Butts and West Street, then use Garrard St to get to the station and off to Napier Rd & TVP. The buses could use the wider loop.
However, I grant that I’m not a routine bus user so don’t know how successful it is from a passenger’s perspective. But for BSM’s owners, having the footfall from bus stops in the heart of their development could be attractive.
Try this one. Type in a postcode then scroll down to the 1931 map
Soho, lavender, hope and cork are shown streets. That map quite conveniently shows the electric tram routes in town too.
As for trams replacing main bus routes, that would be fantastic, but a little expensive. Trolleybuses would better suit replacing the busiest routes in a town the size of Reading. And the previous layout of them in the town was perfect, A pair of routes crossing east to west and a pair of routes crossing north to south, perhaps more nowadays. Crossing the town direct rather than diverting around confusing one way systems means less stops and faster journey times making the transport more attractive to more people. Lesser routes can remain diesel buses and be diverted away from main shopping areas on to side streets
I’m prepared to countenance trolley-buses. If the Leeds scheme goes ahead and proves successful I think there’ll be a flurry of them.
But I would argue a single route from Mereoak, A33, town centre, station, Napier Rd, Thames Valley Park (and potentially over a 3rd bridge to a P&R on Henley Rd) would work best. It provides so many solutions – gets people from the station to the major business parks to the south and east of town; gets people from P&R’s quickly into town; and solves some very fiddly journeys, like Caversham or Woodley to Green Park.
Converting the 17 bus route would be a much lower priority, in my view.
Thanks for the map too
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