This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
|The distinctive gates in Chinatown, Manchester|
Large gateways plan for ends of the Golden Mile
by Dan Martin
Large Indian-style gateways could be put up to mark either end of Leicester's Golden Mile.
Businesses along the busy shopping street in Belgrave are looking at establishing landmarks similar to the Oriental arches in Manchester's Chinatown.
Traders' representatives have been holding discussions with city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby about the idea.
Sir Peter said: "It is an idea that has come forward from the traders as a way of demonstrating the identity of the Golden Mile.
"They have expressed an interest in getting something at either end which would show people when they are entering what is a specialist shopping area.
"They want something at the city end and something at the Melton Road end.
"I have seen Chinatown (in Manchester) and it looks good. I think something similar could work here.
"There is a precedent for doing this in the city already – the arch at the entrance to the market, though that is much more modest than what is being considered."
Sir Peter said he was enthusiastic about the idea and would support it if the traders were to pay for it themselves.
He said the planned demolition of the Belgrave fly-over, set to take place after Sainsbury's relocates from Belgrave to Melton Road at the end of this year, could allow some sort of new public art feature.He said: "It is an idea in its very early stages."
Dharmesh Lakhani, chairman of the Belgrave Business Association, said: "We are looking for something that makes people think of India and the subcontinent, but with elements of Leicester and the UK.
"It could well be a gateway and we could then use an image of it as branding all along the Golden Mile. It would be lovely to have something like that.
"We are not certain yet how it would fit in with the road structure or the space available.
"Whatever we do, it will be something that reinforces the character of the Golden Mile and encourages people to visit."
Mr Lakhani said people in the area would be asked what design they would like to see in place. Children at Abbey Primary School have already come up with a series of designs that could be considered.
Leicester East MP Keith Vaz said: "The Golden Mile is a defined area of shopping excellence known across the country and I think it is a great idea.
"It would come into its own at the time of Diwali.
"It is an ambitious idea and I will support it."
Travel agent Dipak Varadia, 51, from Brandon Street, off Belgrave Road, said: "We should definitely do this. At the moment, that big, ugly concrete fly-over hardly says 'Welcome to the Golden Mile'.
"When it has gone, we can replace it with something beautiful."