Rochdale re-vamp: Historic shopping strip Drake Street gets makeover ahead of Metrolink line arrival

By Amber Haque

One of Rochdale’s most historic shopping streets is being treated to a makeover to commemorate its opening to incoming traffic and a new Metrolink stop.

Council work on Drake Street has been on-going and as the barriers and roadworks are slowly being lifted, fresh footpaths and roadways have been revealed.

Working alongside Rochdale traders, the council hopes sprucing up the street will lure in locals and visitors alike, particularly ahead of the Metrolink stop in the heart of the town centre – on the cards for next year.

Councillor Peter Williams said: “Rochdale Town Centre has a lot to offer local shoppers. But in a competitive marketplace we need to diversify and offer something different.

“Drake Street is definitely positioning itself as an independent shopping quarter that is now much more attractive.

“Through this project it’s been great to see traders enthused about the new benefits the Metrolink will ultimately bring and using this as a new dawn to boost the high street.

“We must continue to support the businesses that have remained loyal to the borough but also work hard to attract new shops into our town centres.”  

Drake Street is home to almost 30 independent retailers – with businesses like Butterworth Brothers, trading since 1903, successfully feeding the town’s economy for more than 100 years.

The array of traders is diverse with something for everyone- including food and drink, hairdressing and beauty, men’s and women’s fashions, bridal and baby boutiques, bespoke jewellery, arts and crafts, quality gifts, specialist music and soft furnishings.

For much of the last two years Drake Street has been shut off to traffic due to the Metrolink work, but the council has been supportive to traders with business rate relief and business support.

And now all the construction is complete, the traders of Rochdale want to give something back – promising a fresh and exciting revamp of their premises and also expressing interests in previously unloved properties of the street.

The council has kicked off a small grants programme, helping traders unveil big improvements to their shop frontages and the first of these improvements are happening right now.

Increased parking spaces on Oldham Road will mean the former car park at Wet Rake Gardens will also be transformed into a tranquil parkland, with new footpaths and seating, a traditional red telephone and refurbished interiors, providing a beautiful entrance to Drake Street.

Ian Sandiford, owner of Sandifords International Fine Jewellery and Gifts, said: “It’s been a difficult couple of years trading-wise but we’re now excited about the future trading prospects and the arrival of the tram. It’s a new start for Drake Street, looking better than ever it’s clear we mean business.”

Drake Street will be back in business as of August 2013 and the changes to the traffic flows will be as follows:

* The upper section of Drake Street, from Water Street upwards, is now permanently open to two-way traffic. General traffic will share this route with buses and, in time, trams when Metrolink goes operational.

* The lower section of Drake Street (Smith St upwards) is restricted to buses only travelling uphill, along with trams when Metrolink becomes operational.

* Access to the River Street car park on lower Drake Street is now back open and shoppers can get to this car park from Water Street.  The car park is free for the first hour and free after 3pm.

Picture courtesy of Dr Neil Clifton, with thanks.

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