The stunning £14m central library in the heart of Brighton’s North Laine opens its doors to the public on World Book Day (Thursday 3rd March). What does it mean for the North Laine and the city centre?
When it is completed in 2006 the Jubilee Street project will not only include the 5,000 sq metre library but also a 90 room boutique hotel, 69 homes, offices, 3,000 sq metres of retail space and a new civic square.
The Library will have 66,000 items on display at any one time with a further 100,000 for reference stored on site or close by. A staggering £17m will be spent on new books over the next 25 years. It will have 90 state of the art computer terminals and 104 study spaces. The high-tech theme continues with the check-out system which does away with the old fashioned stamp in the front of the book and replaces it with radio-tagging which means readers check out their own books. The Library is the first building to be delivered from a stunning series of new developments that are in the pipeline including Black Rock Ice Arena, the King Alfred Centre and the Brighton Centre.
Such an impressive addition will bring many more people to an already thriving part of the city. The businesses in the area made sure that they were ready to take advantage of the opportunities the development will offer by starting to work with the local authority on plans to upgrade Gardner Street eighteen months ago (see earlier stories in Knowledgebase). The effect will probably be twofold. The axis of shopping in the city will shift eastwards as people explore the new retail offer in the reinstated Jubilee Street and also take advantage of the city’s only sizeable civic square. There will probably also be an upward pressure on rents as newcomers take the units on offer.
It is essential that existing retailers in the North Laine make sure that they get professional representation at rent review because the new units are not an automatic comparator with the older shops in the rest of the area. It is also essential that traders ensure that their streets can compete with the ‘marble walls and granite floors’ of the new square. A good start would be to ensure that they remove graffiti from the North Laine and get a stunning display of Christmas lights this December - possibly via a Business Improvement District (BID)
The development is also likely to seal the fate of Western Road to the west beyond Marks & Spencer as the discount quarter of the city centre with big names like Primark and Littlewoods keeping the northern side fairly stable and a selection of smaller operators that come and go on the south side. The Prime Pitch in Western Road has contracted markedly since Churchill Square opened in 1998 and the shopping focus in Brighton is increasingly anchored by Churchill Square at one end and East Street at the other with the Lanes/North Laine to either side. The new library development is likely to accelerate this trend.
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