The regeneration of the Marlowes Shopping Zone in Hemel Hempstead has been launched with the opening of the town’s new high-tech square.
Dacorum Borough Council commissioned landscape architecture practice Broadway Malyan to boost footfall for the town by creating an open and attractive High Street regeneration, linking the town’s Water Gardens to the High Street.
The £4 million public realm regeneration is the first project in the UK to feature the ‘play on the way’ concept developed by Broadway Malyan – rethinking the traditional playground by offering children of all ages, play equipment (including trampolines and interactive water features) along the length of the High Street to attract more families and increase dwell times.
To create a safer environment for shoppers and children, the High Street gives more freedom to pedestrians, through controlling traffic and improving paving and seating with an attractive central spine of planting and trees.
The improvement of the pedestrianised space and the provision of power and water points along the street will also help to boost the town’s market which has been relocated to improve the town’s retail offer.
The project was led by Broadway Malyan’s Directors of Landscape Architecture Allan Cox and Danny Crump, who worked together to ensure that the integrity of the concept was maintained throughout the design and implementation process.
Danny, who ran the project from its inception, said: “High Streets are not just physical connections between places, but a town’s social and economic hub. When considering our masterplan, we took a fresh look at the concept of a High Street – aiming to create a functional, but fun space that promotes the community’s health, happiness and well being.
“We wanted to create a safe and open social space which reflects the town’s impressive waterways and natural landscapes. By limiting traffic, creating adaptable spaces and implementing our unique ‘play on the way’ concept we have helped to create an open and accessible pedestrian-focused space – encouraging community activities and interaction as well as creating an effective place to do business.”
As part of the regeneration, Broadway Malyan designed the new multifunctional town square, including a large water feature that can be transformed into a large town events space. The square also includes a large display screen to broadcast live events, films and for public information as well as an artist designed performance canopy with ‘plug and play’ facilities.
Allan believes that this project, together with other regeneration initiatives, will have a positive impact on the fortunes of Hemel Hempstead’s town centre. He said: “Quality landscape architecture adds value to spaces. With Hemel Hempstead facing strong competition from nearby towns, we see our design giving its High Street a genuine point of difference.
“This re-imagined High Street will attract visitors to use and experience its attractive communal spaces, shops, entertainment and distinctive character.”