The continuing regeneration of Paisley has received a further boost as an ambitious proposal to transform waste ground into a new cultural quarter was named the winner of a prestigious urban renewal competition.
A 500-seat theatre, cinema and performing arts academy would be built on a derelict site at Smithhills Street, close to Gilmour Street station, with the new quarter called Baker Street in honour of the late Paisley-born songwriter Gerry Rafferty.
The bold plan by architects Stallan-Brand, commissioned by the Paisley Community Trust, won a public vote to decide the third annual FutureTown design award.
The competition invites local organisations and members of the public to submit sketches, photographs and short written descriptions of how urban spaces across the country could be renewed.
Paisley’s entry received 43 per cent of the more than 3,000 votes cast during Scotland’s Towns Week, which ran from November 21-26.
The winners will have the opportunity to present their idea to stakeholders in town planning and regeneration from various organisations at the Scotland’s Towns Partnership AGM in 2018.
It’s the latest acolade for Paisley, coming just four months after the Renfrewshire town became the only Scottish entry to make the shortlist to be named UK City of Culture in 2021.
“It’s terrific to see Baker Street Paisley gain widespread recognition and endorsement through a national competition,” a spokesman for the community trust told The Scotsman.
READ MORE: 2017 FutureTown design shortlist revealed
“What we want to create is for is everyone - a facility, venue, space and hub for the community to use. It continues to inspire us forward when Paisley people tell us they can’t wait to pop into town again to see a movie or theatrical performance.
“We’re now asking everyone to take Baker Street Paisley forward to the next level with financial backing. Local and national government as well as Paisley supporting businesses and individuals all have a part to play. Now is the time to get behind Baker Street Paisley – we’d be delighted to hear from you if you can help.”
The FutureTown compeition is organised by Scotland’s Towns Partnership, which was first established as a voluntary agency in 2012. Following a review, it was awarded a £186,000 grant by the Scottish Government in 2014 to strengthen its organisation and become the ‘go to’ body for towns north of the border.
The first design award was won by William Lippe Architects in 2015 with a proposal to re-create Inverurie’s historic town square.
Phil Prentice, chief officer at Scotland’s Towns Partnership, said: “The FutureTown design competition is all about stimulating conversations and provoking ideas to highlight what a possible future town could look like.
“As our communities strive to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the competition asks how can town centres stimulate low carbon and sustainable living, encourage digitally-driven tourism, promote culture, health and well-being and become places of opportunity and choice for all.
“All the shortlisted entries offered innovative ideas in response to these challenges. They show just how much local expertise, activism and collaboration is at work in our diverse towns.
“Paisley’s winning entry proved very popular with the voting public. Their proposal for a performing arts academy shows how culture can be harnessed to create the ‘future history’ of Scotland’s towns, and why Paisley’s creative effervescence makes it a perfect candidate for UK City of Culture 2021.”