How leisure, jobs and town centre living will transform Middlesbrough

Last Wednesday it was confirmed Middlesbrough Council has been awarded £21.9m from the government’s Towns Fund. This is how mayor Andy Preston and the council now intend to transform the town centre.

This Budget-day boost, alongside cash from the Future High Streets Fund and investment from the council and Tees Valley Combined Authority, will see the town centre transformed in the coming years.

An interactive map published today summarises many of the main developments involved. Full details of the Towns Fund and Future High Streets Fund projects will be confirmed soon.

You can view the map here: The future of Middlesbrough town centre (arcgis.com)

While it may have been quiet in Middlesbrough town centre of late, time certainly hasn’t stood still. The impact of Covid-19 has turned routines upside down and confined most people to their homes. Just a short stroll from the bus station, however, part of the town’s skyline is being overhauled.

The imposing new campus of the Northern School of Art is sprouting up next door to Sainsbury’s. The art college, due to welcome students from September, will be one of the first completed works of a bolder Middlesbrough.

The town centre will merge ever closer to Middlehaven as a new emphasis is placed on urban living and leisure time. This reimagining of central Middlesbrough was the focus of bids to the Towns Fund and Future High Streets Fund.

Middlesbrough Council’s vision of thousands more homes and a revamped leisure offering on the doorstep of a thriving digital sector is outlined in an interactive map published today.

Northern School of Art’s new home is a neat example of how a better connected and more varied town centre will support jobs and local families.

At present students are bussed into Linthorpe at the old Cleveland College of Art and Design. In the main they are bussed straight out again when lessons end for the day. From September the students from all over Middlesbrough and the surrounding area will be based slap bang in the middle of town.

They will add to the already massive volume of young people attending Middlesbrough College and Teesside University who spend their time and money in town.

Of interest to them all – and indeed residents and visitors whose studies are long behind them – will be the repurposing of Captain Cook Square. Plans for the square are being fine-tuned following the council’s successful bid to the Future High Streets Fund.

Put quite simply, Middlesbrough town centre is going to be a place people want to go to.

Middlesbrough mayor Andy Preston is excited to see a remodeled town emerge.

The mayor said: “A successful 21st century centre needs three activities on a big scale: living, working and leisure. So central Middlesbrough will do all of those in a big way and be very successful – watch this process start in the coming 12 months.

“I’m grateful to the government for honouring their commitment to us and other places who successfully bid on the Towns Fund and Future High Streets Fund. Nowhere will put this money to work better than us – we will create new jobs, new energy and a new spirit!

“The council has already bought Captain Cook Square and we now have the money to transform this key part of Middlesbrough town centre.

“We have plans for empty units in and around Captain Cook Square and the heart of the town centre. We are in detailed discussions with a cinema operator, bowling alley operator and are developing a really exciting concept focused on food and music.

“This is an idea that’s proving a huge success in some of the bigger cities and we’re learning from them with the idea of improving on it to drive hundreds of thousands of people into the centre of Middlesbrough for leisure.

“We’ve got the money, the ideas and the interest from investors and operators. It’s a massive opportunity.”

When the world returns to a sense of normality, hundreds of workers will get their bearings in new offices in Centre Square. Employees of First Source, XPS and Causeway will be the first to set up camp in the shadows of mima.

Planning approval has also been given to further Grade A offices in the area.

Among other plans are for the old Captain Cook pub “over the border” to be saved from falling down and to complement new homes and businesses in Middlehaven.

Middlesbrough Railway Station is subject to a £35m transformation that will include direct trains to London and a brilliant environment for travelers.

Work is already under way on Boho 8 as Middlesbrough boasts a thriving digital sector owing to the good work of Teesside University. This means new – often multi-million pound turnover businesses – keep popping up in the town due to intrepid Teesside entrepreneurs.

Following that will be Boho X – the centre piece of Middlesbrough’s digital expansion plans. Middlehaven will also home a new secondary school for the town.

Five sites have already been declared set for new housing which will see more than 600 new homes built on brownfield land and Middlehaven will also be home to a new community farm – as it was around 150 years ago.

Mayor Preston added: “Middlesbrough is amazing and it also has challenges. We’re facing those issues head on and building a really exciting future.

“We will not play second fiddle to places like Newcastle. Give us 10 years and we will take them on.”
Projects including the Northern School of Art, Boho 8 and Boho X are part-funded by Tees Valley Combined Authority.

Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen said: “I’m delighted that we’ve been able to award almost £60m in funding to help drive forward these transformative projects across Middlesbrough. All of these are hugely important individually but when taken together will be a catalyst for huge change.

“Just last week I visited the new Northern School of Art to see first-hand how it was coming along and how its state-of-the-art facilities will help shape the next generation of creatives. The Boho developments too will provide much-needed extra space for our growing digital businesses and they expand and create more good-quality jobs for local people. When work at Middlesbrough station is complete, the town will be able to welcome direct trains from London, further tightening links to the capital, encouraging investment.

“These schemes are all the more important as we recover from the pandemic. By giving young people the skills they need to enter a career they are passionate about and building the environments businesses are crying out for, we can show people they don’t need to leave the region for a successful and rewarding career and help create even more good-quality jobs.”

Over the road from the bus station, the construction work goes on. By the middle of summer, commuters will have a new focal point on their journeys to and from town. The art college will be the start of Middlesbrough’s new chapter.

Covid-19 has accelerated the need to futureproof town centres.

Middlesbrough Council is working flat out to force change, build strength in the town’s urban core and encourage a resilient and varied town centre economy.

An interactive map providing more detail on the development schemes around Middlesbrough town centre can be viewed here: The future of Middlesbrough town centre (arcgis.com)