Drake Street, Rochdale’s historic shopping street is having a facelift to mark the re-opening of the road to traffic.
As the fencing and roadworks disappear, new footpaths and roadways are revealed as well as freshly laid tramlines in anticipation of the new Metrolink which will travel along Drake Street into the town centre next year.
Working in partnership with traders and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), the council has plans to spruce up the street to increase its appeal to locals and visitors alike.
Councillor Peter Williams, cabinet member for economic development and customer services, said: “Rochdale Town Centre has a lot to offer local shoppers. But in a competitive marketplace we need to diversify and offer something different. Drake Street is definitely positioning itself as an independent shopping quarter that is now much more attractive. Through this project it’s been great to see traders enthused about the new benefits the Metrolink will ultimately bring and using this as a new dawn to boost the high street.
“We must continue to support the businesses that have remained loyal to the borough but also work hard to attract new shops into our town centres.”
Drake Street is home to almost 30 independent retailers. Some of which have been successfully trading on the street for over 100 years, including Butterworth Brothers, trading since 1903. The array of traders is diverse, including food and drink, hairdressing and beauty, men’s and women’s fashions, bridal and baby boutiques, bespoke jewellery, arts and crafts, quality gifts, specialist music and soft furnishings.
For much of the last two years, Drake Street has been closed to traffic while the construction work for Metrolink into the town centre has been carried out. The Council has supported traders through the construction works providing business rate relief and business support.
Now these works are complete, traders have expressed a desire to give their premises a refresh and excited by the prospect of Metrolink, new owners are investing in previously unloved properties on the street. The Council have instigated a small grants programme to help traders deliver big improvements to the appearance of their shop frontages, the first of these works are starting to happen now.
Ian Sandiford, Owner of Sandifords International Fine Jewellery and Gifts, said: “It’s been a difficult couple of years trading-wise but we’re now excited about the future trading prospects and the arrival of the tram. It’s a new start for Drake Street, looking better than ever it’s clear we mean business.”
Nicki Boyle, Lettings Manager for Oak Properties, added: “We’re looking forward to enjoying the new Drake Street and seeing how it develops alongside our business.”
Increased parking spaces on Oldham Road allows the former car park at Wet Rake Gardens to be transformed into a tranquil parkland complete with; new footpaths and seating, a traditional red telephone, restored walls, refurbished and replacement railings; and a soon to be installed information board. The gardens provide a welcoming gateway to Drake Street and the wider town centre.
Drake Street is an important part of Rochdale’s heritage and a key landmark on the town’s Blue Plaque trail. On Drake Street alone plaques recognise the historical importance and interest of; the Wellington Hotel, Butterworth Brothers Jewellers, Champness Hall, Wet Rake Gardens and Cargo Recording Studio. In addition, new street-plates and fingerposts help visitors navigate the town and give the street a historical look and feel.
Attractive planters and trees have been introduced to add further greenery to the area and more trees will be installed in the new public space created by the closure of the Fleece Street junction with Drake Street. An information board telling a little of the history of Drake Street will welcome people approaching from the town centre.
Getting back to business on Drake Street sees some significant traffic management changes that will be operational as of August 2013. These are as follows: