Regeneration through place quality: the case of Seven Stories – The                         Centre for Children’s BooksPap...
children. The central argument of the paper is that quality of place amenities canconstitute vital pieces of a more holist...
Figure 1: Aerial view of Ouseburn ValleySource: Newcastle City Council (2003). Photograph taken from the South, Newcastle ...
that is simultaneously „global‟ and „local‟: taking inspiration from around the globeand using modern methods of construct...
Supporting the visioning work, CCB engaged local communities which helped theCentre achieve favourable press coverage and ...
unsuccessful, the cultural legacy lives on through the Culture 10 programme ofcultural events and activities1, which provi...
economic development. The case is made that the regenerative potential of culture isbeing mobilised in a rather blunt (eco...
common marketing phraseology, that sets it apart from its competitors and helpssustain the regeneration of East Newcastle....
ReferencesAudiences North East (2007). Seven Stories Survey February 2007. Newcastle, SevenStories.Florida, R. (2002). The...
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2008 regeneration through place quality the case of seven stories - pugalis

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Through the case of a flagship place quality development; Seven Stories in Newcastle’s Ouseburn Valley, the only physical centre for children’s literature in the UK and one of only a handful of such cultural spaces worldwide, this paper reports on its wider regenerative capacity. The Seven Stories redevelopment is a juxtaposition of careful refurbishment and novel contemporary design that has generated a ‘glocal designscape’ with the intention of creating a ‘tourist space’ to anchor the economic regeneration of East Newcastle. The case is made that isolated place quality enhancements are insufficient to regenerate wider areas and may result in diminishing returns as the initial ‘wow’ factor dissipates, but nevertheless they can constitute vital pieces of a more holistic regeneration jigsaw.
Pugalis, L. (2008) 'Regeneration through place quality: the case of Seven Stories - The Centre for Children's Books', Urban Research & Practice, 1 (3), pp. 324-328.

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2008 regeneration through place quality the case of seven stories - pugalis

  1. 1. Regeneration through place quality: the case of Seven Stories – The Centre for Children’s BooksPaper should be cited as:Pugalis, L. (2008) Regeneration through place quality: the case of Seven Stories -The Centre for Childrens Books, Urban Research & Practice, 1 (3), pp. 324-328.AbstractThrough the case of a flagship place quality development; Seven Stories inNewcastle’s Ouseburn Valley, the only physical centre for children’s literature inthe UK and one of only a handful of such cultural spaces worldwide, this paperreports on its wider regenerative capacity. The Seven Stories redevelopment is ajuxtaposition of careful refurbishment and novel contemporary design that hasgenerated a ‘glocal designscape’ with the intention of creating a ‘tourist space’ toanchor the economic regeneration of East Newcastle. The case is made thatisolated place quality enhancements are insufficient to regenerate wider areasand may result in diminishing returns as the initial ‘wow’ factor dissipates, butnevertheless they can constitute vital pieces of a more holistic regenerationjigsaw.IntroductionSeven Stories, the home of the Centre for Children‟s Books (CCB), is an importantcomponent of the culture-led renaissance of the Ouseburn Valley in East Newcastle.Completed in August 2005, the refurbished listed building is a project of local,regional and national significance, as the only centre for children‟s books in the UK.A registered charity, CCB is dedicated to the celebration of the cultural importanceand history of children‟s literature, with an emphasis on twentieth century andcontemporary material. Seven Stories is the only place in the country which isactively collecting original archive material by British writers and illustrators for
  2. 2. children. The central argument of the paper is that quality of place amenities canconstitute vital pieces of a more holistic regeneration jigsaw, but will struggle topositively influence local, city and sub-regional economies by themselves. To helpsupport this argument, I provide an overview of the regeneration of Ouseburn Valleyand the objectives of the Seven Stories development scheme as a background tofacilitate an examination of the cultural and economic impact on Ouseburn‟s qualityof place „offer‟.Seven Stories and the regeneration of Ouseburn Valley: an overviewSituated in a conservation area in East Newcastle, Seven Stories is the flagship placequality development scheme in the Ouseburn Valley; an area that has been the focusof culture-led regeneration efforts over the past twenty years and has been therecipient of over £60m of investment since 2002. The Ouseburn Valley covers an areaof approximately 100 hectares and has developed incrementally since the seventeenthcentury which is evident in the variation in building footprints (see figure 1). Togetherwith the topography that provides a sense of enclosure and the watercourse thatsnakes through it, the variety of activities and mixed land uses helps define theOuseburn Valley as „a unique yet largely untapped resource for the City … [whichpresents] one of the few opportunities in the City for satisfying demand for housingand business development opportunities in the form of a sustainable “urban village”‟(Newcastle City Council, 2003: 3). Common with other brownfield regenerationstrategies, land parcels are highly fragmented with ownership divided between publicbodies, private interests and charities such as the Ouseburn Trust. For a fuller accountof the regeneration trajectory and detailed analysis of the governance arrangements inOuseburn see the works of Gonzalez and colleagues (2005; 2008).CCB opted to locate in the Ouseburn Valley as it met the requirements in theirbusiness plan to provide a cultural focal point and the anchor for wider regeneration.The site, including a seven storey Grade II listed building and single storey warehouseat 30-34 Lime Street, was purchased by CCB in 2002. At this time the building was ina poor state of repair, requiring significant renovation works to transform it into acultural space for children‟s books.
  3. 3. Figure 1: Aerial view of Ouseburn ValleySource: Newcastle City Council (2003). Photograph taken from the South, Newcastle city centre is tothe west.The key objectives of this quality of place redevelopment scheme are to: o develop a national centre for children‟s literature and new cultural business o provide a key cultural attraction, drawing visitors to the Ouseburn Valley o create and safeguard jobs in the city and north east region o offer lifelong education and training opportunitiesThe capital costs associated with the development of Seven Stories exceed £6m, withmajor funding secured from One NorthEast (£1.4m), Newcastle City Council (£1.375)and European Union ERDF (£1.237).Seven Stories: a glocal designscapeDue to planning restrictions associated with 30-34 Lime Street, sensitive redesign wascalled for by the appointed architects; GWK. However, these design and planningparameters have not stifled the innovative redevelopment of the site (see figure 2).What could be described as a „glocal designscape‟, Seven Stories is a juxtaposition ofcareful refurbishment and novel contemporary design. It could be argued that, in thiscase, planning controls have provided the steer for the architects‟ to design a scheme
  4. 4. that is simultaneously „global‟ and „local‟: taking inspiration from around the globeand using modern methods of construction but also working with Ouseburn‟sdistinctive local character and cultural heritage. The design also incorporateslandscaping and public art commissions such as The Voyage; a floating sculptureanchored on the Ouseburn River adjacent to Seven Stories which drew on designinput from local children.Figure 2: Seven Stories
  5. 5. Supporting the visioning work, CCB engaged local communities which helped theCentre achieve favourable press coverage and represent it in local discourse as anasset for NewcastleGateshead as part of its attempts to place culture at the heart of itseconomy through the 2008 European City of Culture bid which eventually went toLiverpool. Innovative consultation techniques, such as role-playing activities by theCentre‟s staff, guided the design and development of Seven Stories which has helpedcreate a child friendly attraction.Cultural and economic impact on Ouseburn’s quality of place ‘offer’Seven Stories provides a material home for children‟s literature and its facilitiesinclude: a museum, two galleries, a book depository, an interactive discovery centre,arts and education studio, digital facilities, a bookshop and café. A cultural space ofnational significance, Seven Stories seeks to contribute to the wider cultural offer ofNewcastleGateshead. The Centre provides residencies to individual artists and smallcultural businesses, and runs outreach and education programmes to encourage widercommunity participation from groups that are traditionally excluded from culture-ledregeneration schemes such as families receiving income support. In addition, itsnational collection of children‟s literature provides a major research facility based inTyne and Wear.The cultural and economic impacts of Seven Stories are beginning to take effect at avariety of spatial scales. The local level of impact includes direct employment andnew cultural infrastructure. In hard economic terms the Seven Stories redevelopmentscheme has created 2000 sq. m. of floorspace, generated 10 jobs and safeguarded afurther 10. However, it is perhaps the „softer‟ cultural impacts and wider economiceffects that are contributing to the cultural renaissance of Ouseburn that is of mostinterest to current quality of place debates.From inception and initial scoping exercises the Seven Stories project has beenoutward facing; making links with local communities and institutions. For example,collaboration with Newcastle University has included the establishment of a Chair ofChildren‟s Literature. Seven Stories was also actively involved as part of acoordinated range of investments in NewcastleGateshead in support of the bid tobecome the 2008 European City of Culture. Although the bid was eventually
  6. 6. unsuccessful, the cultural legacy lives on through the Culture 10 programme ofcultural events and activities1, which provides an opportunity for Seven Stories andthe Ouseburn Valley to help promote the north east‟s distinctive culture.The Centre is attracting around 80,000 visitors per annum with an entry charge of£4.50 per child, £5.50 per adult and £16.00 for a family. According to a surveyconducted in February 2007 that collected the views of 271 visitors, 61 per cent ofvisits were made from within Tyne and Wear and 8 per cent from outside the region(Audiences North East, 2007). It is this latter group of visitors that can potentiallyhave an important impact on the north east economy, especially when one factors inthe additional local expenditure of the estimated 6,400 visitors from outside theregion. However, records from similar surveys conducted the previous year (2006) inApril and July both recorded 23 per cent of visitors from outside the north east. Whilstit is too soon to suggest that the „wow factor‟ of a new cultural attraction may bedissipating for visitors with further to travel, not to mention the seasonal bias that hasto be accounted for, this raises an important question about whether the popularity ofplace quality cultural amenities leads to diminishing economic returns.Seven Stories is helping to position the Ouseburn Valley and NewcastleGatesheadmore generally as a cultural „destination space‟ for visitors. This obviously haspositive economic spin-offs which have briefly been discussed, but there are alsocounter discourses that suggest the substantial public sector finances pumped into thisventure brings little benefits to the local communities residing in Ouseburn and theworking class publics of NewcastleGateshead. The role of CCB should becommended for its community work such as with local schools and acting as acultural hub for the Ouseburn Valley. However, a single cultural attraction andorganisation can only do so much. Not too dissimilar to other culture-led regenerationstrategies where governance takes on an entrepreneurial ethos (Tretter, 2008), keypartners steering the „renaissance‟ of Ouseburn through financial inducements, suchas Newcastle City Council and One NorthEast Regional Development Agency, aredriven by an underlying economic ethos. In this sense, what is occurring in Ouseburnis the marketisation of culture, where culture is being appropriated as a channel for1 See: http://www.visitnewcastlegateshead.com/viewpage.php?id=834&s=80
  7. 7. economic development. The case is made that the regenerative potential of culture isbeing mobilised in a rather blunt (economic) fashion. Alternative place stories anddissenting voices can now be heard if one chooses to listen that are beginning tochallenge the dominant regeneration discourse. Although diffuse, discontinuous andcontradictory, a recurring quality of these evolving „spaces of resistance‟ is that thegrass-roots „edgy‟ culture of Ouseburn is being sidelined in favour of middle classconspicuous consumption. A focus on such a „choice clientele‟ in terms of those whocan afford to choose where to live, work, rest and play is perhaps commodifying theedginess that makes Ouseburn appeal to the diverse lifestyle communities that havehelped make it what it is (or perhaps now once was).ConclusionSeven Stories is part of a suite of cultural amenities being promoted byNewcastleGateshead to raise the (economic) profile of the city-region as it strives toreposition itself as a „postindustrial city‟ which is attractive to what Richard Florida(2002) terms the „creative class‟. To date, it has been extremely successful atidentifying and maximising key linkages with institutions and „choice‟ communitiesof meaning, but further efforts are needed to embed this cultural landmark with thegrass-roots „edgy‟ culture of Ouseburn.The glocal designscape of Seven Stories is the visual and symbolic emblem of thecultural renaissance taking place in the Ouseburn Valley that has contributed to theemergence of a destination space. Nevertheless, visitor numbers are modest and itsnational distinctiveness as the only centre for children‟s books has so far not been astrong enough magnet to attract visitors from outside the north east and would need tobe part of a much larger suite of quality of place amenities to appeal to a significantshare of international tourists. It is perhaps the „wow factor‟, and more specifically theability to retain this sensation, that determines whether place quality developmentstrategies will anchor the economic revitalisation that entrepreneurial local stateauthorities such as Newcastle City Council hope to achieve when financially backingthese types of projects. In the case of Seven Stories, its uniqueness in terms of culturaloffer (as one of only a handful of similar centres worldwide) and place quality offer(as an innovative glocal designscape) may provide that unique selling point, to adopt
  8. 8. common marketing phraseology, that sets it apart from its competitors and helpssustain the regeneration of East Newcastle.There appears to be an extremely fine line between „successful‟ place qualitydevelopment strategies and those judged to „under-perform‟. There is no guaranteethat public sector capital investments will necessarily improve an area‟s and less stilla region‟s quality of place and cultural offer and in turn improve its economicperformance. As more projects compete for a finite share of visitors and consumers tobolster local economies, the rate of economic returns appears to be diminishing as„fewer, bigger, better‟ quality of place amenities (One NorthEast, 2006) are requiredto produce ever dwindling economic impacts. The onus is on bodies such as UrbanRegeneration Companies, Regional Development Agencies and EconomicDevelopment Companies to realise that everyplace will not benefit from a modern artgallery, or music hall … or conference centre. Where the offer is distinctive andlocally rooted then, possibly, there is economic merit in spatially targeting publicresources in place quality amenities. This suggests that investment in culturalinfrastructure driven by purely economic development motives is a risky strategy.Economic considerations clearly need to be factored into quality of place initiatives,but the importance of culture in its own right should not be underestimated.
  9. 9. ReferencesAudiences North East (2007). Seven Stories Survey February 2007. Newcastle, SevenStories.Florida, R. (2002). The Rise of the Creative Class: And How Its Transforming Work,Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York, Basic Books.Gonzalez, S. and P. Healey (2005). A Sociological Institutionalist Approach to theStudy of Innovation in Governance Capacity, Urban Studies, 42(11): 2055-2069.Gonzlez, S. and G. Vigar (2008). Community influence and the contemporary localstate, City, 12(1): 64-78.Newcastle City Council (2003). Regeneration Strategy for Lower Ouseburn Valley.Newcastle, Newcastle City Council.One NorthEast (2006). Leading the way: Regional Economic Strategy. Newcastle,One NorthEast.Tretter, E. M. (2008). Scales, regimes, and the urban governance of Glasgow,Journal of Urban Affairs, 30(1): 87-102.

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