Kirklees Council isn’t about to back-track over demolition of Huddersfield’s Piazza Centre but does want to continue to promote art in the town centre by offering up empty shops.
Following research by Huddersfield-based think tank Same Skies, there were calls to scrap plans to demolish the Piazza Centre.
The council had moved Huddersfield Art Gallery into empty retail space in the Piazza and allowed art organisations to hold workshops and exhibitions as part of an initiative called Temporary Contemporary.
A study by Same Skies found that exhibition audiences had exceeded expectations and, in at least one case, had trebled.
The Piazza had become an arts centre and was said to be “flourishing.” That led Andrew Wilson, co-director of Same Skies, to call for the council step back from demolition and “recognise their own success.”
It was said the Piazza as an arts centre could become a regeneration model for other towns to follow.
Kirklees Council, however, intends to press ahead with demolition as part of its £210 million Cultural Heart redevelopment.
Clr Peter McBride, Cabinet member for growth and regeneration, said: “Through the Cultural Heart we’re creating a vibrant culture, art, leisure and nightlife offer which local residents can engage with.
“In order to bring this project to fruition, the existing Piazza shops will be demolished to make way for the area’s new offering, which will include an art gallery.
“Temporary Contemporary is a programme which is about temporary cultural interventions in vacant properties. It has never been about providing permanent space to artists and other creative practitioners – however, due to its success in making artists more visible within our town centre, the council will continue to look to facilitate temporary opportunities for artists to take over empty retail spaces in Huddersfield town centre and other towns across Kirklees.
“We hope that artists will continue to be involved in Temporary Contemporary and, once open, that they will collaborate with the council to create a thriving Cultural Heart.”
The council plans to replace with Piazza with an urban park. Queensgate Market will become a food court with a new “events space” accommodating between 2,500 and 3,000 people built alongside.
A new museum and art gallery could be located within the existing library building with an extension providing additional gallery space.