It’s not often run-down Castlegate in Sheffield and the trendy Meatpacking district of New York are mentioned in the same sentence.
But the ongoing Grey to Green scheme to revamp West Bar in the city centre – widening the road and creating public spaces with wild flowers, trees and seating areas – has been hailed as similar to the High Line in Manhattan.
The Big Apple scheme transformed an elevated section of disused railroad into an urban park that has sparked development in the neighbourhoods it passes through, as well as attracting millions of visitors each year.
Professor Nigel Dunnett, of The University of Sheffield’s landscape department, is working on the £3.5 million Grey to Green scheme with Sheffield Council.
He said: “The council is very modest about Grey to Green but actually it is the biggest linear scheme of its kind in the country. The most similar one at the moment is the High Line in New York which has transformed that whole area of the city and part of the idea for Sheffield is to do the same.
“There’s nothing else like Grey to Green in the country.”
In another nod to the High Line, workers digging up West Bar exposed old tram tracks that used to run alongside the road under the city’s old tram system which closed through the 1950s and 1960s.
The council says the excavation of the old tram tracks was always planned but a small section at the bottom of Snig Hill was uncovered by the contractor. It is being assessed to see if it will have any impact on the programme. Prof Dunnett, who also designed the meadows at London’s Olympic Park, added: “The tram tracks were exposed as part of the works and they are really interesting to see.
“It has actually been a real benefit because when you are digging down into road surfaces the worry is that you will hit water or gas pipes. What happens when there is tram tracks is that there is usually very little underneath them.”
Work on Grey to Green began in April and it is scheduled to be completed by December.
The project, partly paid for with EU funding, will feature perennial meadows, a sustainable urban drainage system and rain gardens.
Meanwhile a new festival aims to celebrate the past – and imagine the future – of the Castlegate area is being held in Sheffield this weekend.
Pop up shops and exhibitions, art workshops, film events and expert talks will feature in the inaugural Castlefate Festival.
The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Council, Yorkshire Artspace, Bank Street Arts and the University’s School of Architecture are working together to host the event.
There will be three sites to visit over the weekend, Castle House, Yorkshire Artspace’s Exchange Place Studios and Bank Street Arts, with most activities free.
n a guided walk around the closed Old Town Hall to examine its history, architecture and current condition. From 1pm on Sunday, meet outside the old town hall on Castle Street.
n a time-lapse film of the demolition of Castle Market is being created by Live Works. At Castle House all weekend.
n buskers and street acts will bring Castlegate to life on Sunday, with food served from 12pm to 2pm.
n the chance to redesign Castlegate your own way by moulding a large model of the area at Yorkshire Artspace. All weekend.
n a walk from Victoria Quays to Kelham Island will examine the past, present and future of local waterways – including plans to open up Sheffield’s Canal Basin – on Saturday at 12pm. Meet at Exchange Place Studios.
n To book email email@example.com or phone 0114 2734189.
n Visit www.sheffield.ac.uk/castlegatefestival for more details.