Saturday, 19 March 2011

Church helping bring in visitors

There's a nice article in the Leicester Mercury today about St Martin's House - which recently opened for business - and its contribution to the creation of a new "Heritage Quarter" for Leicester. This is an attractive part of the city centre, built up around the old Grammar School which has since relocated to Great Glen. It's a part of town that is largely unknown and underused. I know it pretty well because I lived in the West End of Leicester for four years and used to walk through this area into the city centre.

The pictutre above is a computer generated image, produced to raise interest in St Martin's House while it was still in development. I couldn't find a good "real" image of the building online that I could post here. This is an accurate rendering of how it looks now though.

I'm sure that this new development will be good for this area. But I have one question: what happened to the possessive apostrophe in "St Martin's"? It's in this article from the Mercury alright, but it's nowhere to be seen on the new building!
Church helping bring in visitors

In the latest in his series on Leicester's regeneration, Ian Griffin looks at work to create a Heritage Quarter
One of the most historic parts of Leicester is undergoing a renaissance.

St Martin's House, in Peacock Lane, opened this year after the £7 million renovation of the former grammar school site.

The office and conference complex has helped attract hundreds more visitors to the area – including the 14th century Guildhall and 11th century cathedral – which has been dubbed "the heritage quarter".

Now, the site's owner, the Anglican Diocese of Leicester, is looking to spend an additional £2 million revamping the ground near to the building.

But, like other developers in the city, it is being forced to find alternative ways of raising the cash after Government spending cuts.

Half of the funding for the second phase of the project was due to have come from East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA). However, this was lost following the announcement that EMDA was to close.

Rev Pete Hobson, director of St Martin's House, said: "We see it as a flagship project which can kick-start regeneration of the heritage quarter.

"This is a project costing some £7 million, which has come from benefactors, not the public sector.

"In terms of regeneration, it's a good story, but it's early days."

About £3 million of the funding for St Martin's came from millionaire businessmen David Wilson and David Samworth, with the rest coming from the diocese and fund-raising schemes.

Office rent and conference rooms and grand hall bookings mean St Martin's House will generate income for the diocese within two years.

In the second phase of the development project, the diocese is also planning to make the school playground and cathedral precincts into Cathedral Square.

Mr Hobson said he was looking at ways of raising cash, including approaching other potential benefactors.

Businesses said the new venue was a valuable addition to the area.

Celine Issitt, corporate account manager at Hotel Maiyango, in nearby St Nicholas Place, which runs corporate and wedding events at St Martin's House, said couples could get married at the historic Guildhall, before moving on to the former school for the reception.

"I think the regeneration of St Martin's House has contributed hugely to putting the stamp of 'heritage quarter' on this part of the city," she said.

"Obviously, the Guildhall and the cathedral have always been here.

"However, the attraction of St Martin's House has really brought an increased footfall to the area.

"It's a beautiful backdrop. People come in and see the grand hall at St Martin's and their jaw drops."

Stuart Bailey, chairman of Leicester Civic Society, said: "There's a tremendous amount of historic buildings in that area.

"Anything that attracts people into it is only going to be good. It will boost the economy of the area. This, in turn, will help further development."

Read this article on the Leicester Mercury website, along with reader comments:

Find out more about St Martin's House and Cathedral Square:

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