A PUBLIC ‘urban park’ could be used to regenerate a ‘neglected’ section of town – and once again provide a link to Fort Regent, according to a local architect.
High-speed lifts and a multi-level park inspired by the sand dunes are among the proposed changes for the regeneration of “undesirable” Snow Hill by a team of local architects wishing to breathe new life into the area.
Nicholas Socrates, the founder of Socrates Architects, designed the plans following “recent negative publicity” about La Motte and La Colomberie.
Their plans involve making use of what is currently unused land at Snow Hill by turning it into “a vibrant and exciting public space.”
“Snow Hill has historically been a place of great importance for St Helier,” Mr Socrates wrote.
The site was home to the St. Helier (Snow Hill) Train Station for the Eastern Jersey Railway in 1874, before a bus station was developed in 1932.
In 1970, when Fort Regent became a tourist destination, a cable car station was installed to transport visitors to the Fort. The cable cars were extremely popular and continued to operate until the service closed in the late 1980s.
“For many years now the East of Town has deteriorated while the waterfront to the west has seen substantial investment and development,” Mr Socrates said. “Snow Hill has sadly been neglected and has become an eyesore and an undesirable place.”
The architect believes there is an “exciting opportunity” to regenerate the area, by transforming the disused land and public toilets into an urban park, which would create “a much-needed public space” on the east side of town.
“Snow Hill has sadly been neglected and has become an eyesore and an undesirable place,” Mr Socrates said.
“A well-designed public urban park on this key site will not only act as an urban design landmark and a new destination for St. Helier, but will serve as a catalyst for change and intervention for this quarter of town and its surrounding areas,” Mr Socrates wrote.
The park was designed taking into account “the inhospitable nature of the current site, which is currently neglected and exhausted,” the project brief noted.
The design was inspired by the formation of Jersey’s sand dunes: how sand troughs and ridges are formed by the wind and resisted by the Maron grass.
Ridges and level changes throughout the park would help create unique spaces and shelter park-users from winter winds. “The aspiration is to create an appropriate natural environment which can be enjoyed throughout the year,” the Architects said.
As part of the plans, the “unsightly” public toilets would be integrated into the level changes of the Park’s design.
While the plans involve the destruction of the “unsightly” public toilets, they could be relocated and integrated within the level changes of the Park’s design. The substation and taxi rank would, however, need to be relocated elsewhere.
Socrates Architects say two high-speed lifts attached to the cliff-face at the rear of the site could be installed to transport the public to the Fort’s historic ramparts. These they would offer not only outstanding views but also much more public space and a fresh perspective over St. Helier.
The plans also include the pedestrianisation of the small section of Snow Hill as well as the first half of La Motte Street, to reinvigorate La Motte Street and its commercial outlets. The regeneration of this area would also benefit La Colomberie, according to the architects.
Mr Socrates said: “Uplifting Snow Hill by creating an urban park and new public space, leading to external Fort Regent lifts, as well as the pedestrianisation of first half of La Motte Street are all important potential urban interventions which will act as catalysts for the regeneration of this part of town, contributing to a renewed enthusiasm, focus and access to the Fort, its outstanding views and its future prospects.”
Nick Socrates, who grew up in Jersey and runs Socrates Architects, has drawn up proposals he believes could breathe life back into the east of town and contribute to the future success of an improved Fort.
Under his plans, Snow Hill would be transformed, with the existing public toilets demolished and replaced somewhere more discreet, and the nearby substation and taxi rank relocated.
In their place, an urban park based on a design inspired by the formation of Jersey’s sand dunes could be created with ridges and level changes to create ‘unique spaces and shelter park users from prevailing winter winds’.
‘The aspiration is to create an appropriate natural environment which can be enjoyed throughout the year,’ he said.
And he added: ‘There is a real possibility to introduce at least two high-speed lifts attached to the cliff-face at the rear of the site, transporting the public to the Fort’s historic ramparts which would offer outstanding views, the provision of much more public space and a fresh perspective over St Helier.’
Additionally, he says that Snow Hill and the first half of La Motte Street could be pedestrianised to re-invigorate the area and its shops, an effect he says will also benefit businesses in Colomberie.
‘Uplifting Snow Hill by creating an urban park and new public space, leading to external Fort Regent lifts, as well as the pedestrianisation of first half of La Motte Street are all important potential urban interventions which will act as catalysts for the regeneration of this part of town, contributing to a renewed enthusiasm, focus, and access to the Fort, its outstanding views and its future prospects,’ said Mr Socrates.
The area was home to the St Helier (Snow Hill) Train Station for the Eastern Jersey Railway in 1874, before a bus station was developed there in 1932. Between 1970 and the late 1980s cable cars operated between Snow Hill and the Fort.
It is not the first time a lift has been suggested to connect the area with the Fort. In 1999 two spires containing lifts were mooted and in 2014 the Fort Regent Steering Group presented its vision for the leisure centre including a 120-bedroom hotel, a restaurant and a glass-floored ‘skyway’ platform, all linked to Snow Hill via a lift.
Earlier this year businesses in Colomberie hit back at claims that more and more retailers are leaving the area and relocating to other parts of town, although they admitted that the area could do with a facelift.
Their comments followed the announcement that Mange Tout was to close its shop in the area after 20 years, citing a drop in trade on the road.
Mr Socrates has previously suggested transforming the site of the Steam Clock with an ‘iconic cultural building’ that would attract tourists and Islanders alike and linking the Esplanade to the Waterfront via a bridge