A New Town Square for Muswell Hill?
By MyMuswell Team on 23 December 2011
2012 promises to be a big year for Muswell Hill. Potentials in the offing include a town square, a new eco-pod, a market space and a Love Muswell Hill day. But how is this all happening? Who is pulling the strings? What exactly is being proposed? And perhaps most importantly, why? Here’s what we found out …
You might have noticed an increasing number of local events designed to get the community out and about on the high street. First we had Taste Muswell Hill, a mini-food festival. Then, just recently we had the excellent festive event Eat, Drink and be Merry featuring carol singers, a visit from Santa, exclusive Christmas offers and a pop-up market in the O’Neill's pub. It was so popular the BBC even came down to film our goings-on.
The force behind it all was the Muswell Hill Trader’s Group (MHTG) led by energetic chair Emma Whittlestone. They were established in January 2010, bringing together independent stores like Frocks Away and more familiar juggernauts like Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencers. Together they work toward a common goal - getting positive about Muswell Hill’s high street.
For such a young trader’s group they’ve already had some phenomenal wins. Their biggest success to date was winning an £85,000 grant from London Mayor Boris Johnson’s Outer London fund. This fund was set-up as part of a 3-year initiative dedicated to strengthening the vibrancy and growth of local high streets; local high-streets just like ours.
The money itself is being spent on a variety of local projects. They include an exercise in ‘branding’ Muswell Hill (viz @inmuswellhill and the inmuswellhill street signs), an up and coming Love Muswell Hill day which uses a bespoke phone app to send shoppers out on a treasure hunt across Muswell Hill Broadway and some new signage in March of next year, designed to bring shoppers to those tucked away stores on Avenue Mews and Fortis Green Road.
But there’s more - and here's where it get’s really exciting. The MHTG are also planning more radical changes. They envision a bold and bright new future for Muswell Hill, with huge structural changes designed to make it shopper friendly and more community orientated. After the storming success of their initial bid, the MHTG decided to go back for more. On November 14th 2011 they submitted a new bid for a 2nd Round of pay-outs from the same Outer London Fund. This time the money was being made available to help deliver and pay for substantial physical changes tthat would bring lasting improvement to local high streets. Again, Muswell Hill qualified.
The amount they are asking for is a massive £850,000. Taken together with some ‘match-funding’ from local businesses and auxiliary sponsorship deals, the entire potential infrastructure investment tots up to a total of £1,000,000.
So what exactly would this bumper pay-off be spent on and how does the MHTG envision it changing the locale? Here is a quick breakdown of some of their exciting proposals …
The Town Square. The slip road and parking spaces outside Planet Organic and the Odeon will be turned into a proper Muswellian town square. This public space will be about 9-metres in diameter and will play host to all sorts of community spirited events. Carol singers at Christmas, seasonal art installations and bustling markets at the weekend. The proposed name is St. James's Circle.
Pedestrian Friendly. The road alongside this development - where St. James Lane meets Muswell Hill Road - will be raised until it lies at the same height as the pavement. Research has shown motorists scooting alongside pavement like this drive much more cautiously, becoming hypersensitive to the nearby pedestrians.
Zebra Crossing. A zebra crossing will be installed across Muswell Hill Broadway running from Ryman’s to Toffs. This should make it much easier for people to skip back and forth between the left and right side of the road. They've also pledged to solve the crossing problem next to Art for Art’s Sake.
Greenery Boost. Trees will be planted along the entire Muswell Hill Broadway.
Avenue Mews. Avenue Mews will be entirely re-surfaced. It’s a shoddy walkway and is often overlooked by shoppers. They believe new paving would make it a more welcoming thoroughfare.
The Library Car Park. A problematic but exciting possibility. The MHTG have suggested re-surfacing the car park behind the library to solve the parking issue in Muswell Hill. They’d also green wall it, to make it more aesthetically pleasing. Currently a myriad health and safety issues prohibit it from being used for anything, so on the surface at least it seems like a great idea. Unfortunately, the land has already been earmarked for sale by the local council, so discussions will need to be had to drum out a solution that works for all of the parties involved.
Eco-Pod. An eco-pod will be built outside the Barclays Bank at the bottom of Queen Avenue. It would be built using the best techniques of sustainable architecture, operating as a multi-purpose facility all year round. Suggested uses are: information kiosk, local art gallery and market stall.
So as you can see, if they pull it off the MHTG could ring some quite remarkable changes to Muswell Hill’s high street. The results are to be announce any day now, so we should know very soon whether they'll fly or not. What do you think? Does £1,000,000 of investment in the Broadway sound like a good idea? Let us know in the comments section below.