A much maligned Blackpool car park which was criticised for looking closed after a multi-million pound refit has won an award for the revamp.
The £6m Talbot Road car park was refurbished as part of the £220m Talbot Gateway project but drew criticism in March for being massively under-used.
Traders complained shutters on the doorsd made it look closed and that prices at £6.50 for four hours were too high.
The council ended up waiving fees for three weekends in a row and then cut charges to £4.50 in a bid to encourage drivers to start using the multi-storey building.
But now the redesign carried out on the historic building by Muse Developments has won the top award nationally in the British Parking Awards for Best Refurbishment.
The car park was originally designed and constructed by Blackpool Council in the 1930s and featured innovative details for the time such as terracotta tiled facades and ‘window’ openings to provide natural light and ventilation.
Originally designed to offer four parking levels with public toilets and Blackpool’s main bus station at ground floor level, it now forms a central part of the mixed-use 25-acre Talbot Gateway Central Business District (CBD) scheme.
By the 1970s, wear and tear to the terracotta tiles had prompted the council to over clad the original elevations with corrugated plastic sheeting. The window openings were also covered with translucent fibre glass louvres.
Mike Horner, regional director at Muse Developments, said: “By the time we came to develop plans for the Talbot Gateway regeneration scheme, the car park had not only lost its original charm and vintage design appeal, it had also become run down and no longer fit for purpose.
“Refurbishing the car park was a central part of our vision to improve the appeal of the whole area by bringing back to life a car park that not only enables visitors to park in the town centre, generating footfall, but also enhances the quality and visual appeal of Blackpool’s built environment.”
The 648 space Talbot Road car park beat strong competition from five other shortlisted car parks in the Best Refurbishment category thanks to a creative design that reveals the original 1930s frame but delivers a contemporary car park that acknowledges its heritage.
Designed by architect, Potter and Holmes and refurbished by Tolent Construction, the five levels which are accessed by internal circular ramps and the ground floor has been redeveloped as retail units, in keeping with the new Talbot Gate streetscapes.
Coun John Jones, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “We’re pleased for Muse that they have won an award for the car park. However, the most important thing for us is to ensure that it is a valuable resource to the people of Blackpool and we’re very pleased that’s beginning to be the case.
“While we’ve now got a number of council staff paying to park there on annual contracts we are also seeing increases in footfall from other users. It’s clear that the parking offers we’ve put on have helped to familiarise people with the car park.
“We will continue to monitor progress and to look to improve.”