Helensburgh Town Centre – Public Realm and Outdoor Museum Officially Opened

Helensburgh Town Centre - Public Realm and Outdoor Museum Officially Opened

Helensburgh’s principal town square, seaside esplanade and main streets within the town’s famous grid layout have undergone a major public realm and traffic management enhancement.

Helensburgh’s new town centre public realm, designed by Austin-Smith:Lord, was officially opened on Saturday 20th June in Colquhoun Square. The ambitious £7m public realm project is part of Argyll & Bute Council’s CHORD initiative seeking to deliver wider economic regeneration benefits.

Colquhoun Square, adjacent streets and the esplanade have been sensitively transformed, offering a whole new experience for both residents and visitors. Colquhoun Square has been re-imagined as the  “civic heart” of the town which includes a plaza capable of supporting significant community events.

The Square also incorporates a new ‘Outdoor Museum’ that showcases, with new artwork, aspects of the town’s rich history. The redesigned Square also provides increased amenity space, seating and planting and supports an emerging “café culture” in the town.

The newly widened pavements provide better access to local shops and improved links between the sea-front and the town centre. Local businesses are reporting they are already seeing the benefits of the scheme, with the council receiving positive feedback on the high quality of the finish and the improved, inclusive accessibility.

The work supports the aims and priorities of the Scottish Government for Town Centre Regeneration and sustainable economic regeneration through improvements to the quality of the environment.

From the outset, Austin-Smith:Lord’s team carried out a significant level of engagement with the community and stakeholders. A range of consultation and engagement techniques were employed over a twenty-month period which directly informed the preparation of design proposals.

One outcome from the community consultation was the creation of the ‘Outdoor Museum’. The local community was keen to have a new museum space in Helensburgh Town Centre. Bollards required to control traffic movement have become “museum plinths” to display artifacts and artwork thus delivering the outdoor museum reflecting Helensburgh’s history.

Councillor Gary Mulvaney, chair of the local area committee, welcomed the completion of the work, saying: “I’m delighted with the quality of the work – the town centre looks fantastic….The project has seen a significant investment which will, I am sure, provide real, long lasting and tangible benefits to local people and businesses. We are already seeing significant private sector investment in the town and are hoping to use this project as a springboard to further growth.”

Graham Ross, Project Partner at Austin-Smith:Lord noted: “Helensburgh is one of the finest examples of a planned town in the UK. It was an immense challenge to be asked to redefine the principal public spaces of the historic, seaside town centre. Over the last five years we have sought to address the issues in collaboration with our project team colleagues, the Council and the local community with whom we engaged with to create a streetscape that emulates the ambition of the original town plan.

“It was a rare privilege to be asked to design a new civic square, principal streets and a waterfront esplanade in such a location; one that demanded a sensitive design response to create public realm that encourages street life and a convivial, vibrant town centre. Early feedback is encouraging and the provision of high quality public realm, enriched by place-specific artwork that reveal the town’s story, should help to mark the next chapter in the regeneration of Helensburgh.”

Austin-Smith:Lord led the team which included O’Connor Sutton Cronin (Engineering Consultants), Robinson Low Francis (Cost Consultants), Transport Planning (Traffic Management Consultants), WAVEparticle (Artwork Design) and Maclay Civil Engineering (Main Contractor).