Following on from the opening of Plymouth's Drake Circus development not so long ago today has seen the ribbon cut at the new look Princesshay in Exeter. Apparently it has some 60 or so shops, cafes and restaurants although a small number of these retail outlets have yet to be let. Interestingly it incorporates a number of flats, about 120 I believe. I'm a great believer in bringing housing into the centre of our cities, not that I would really want to live in a city myself. But for a city to be vibrant it needs people to live there 24/7 and not just be given over to the retail and office sectors.
Not being one in love with retail therapy I am not going to drop everything and dash off to Exeter but there are one or two of aspects of the new Princesshay worth commenting on. Firstly, a high proportion of the estimated 43,000 tonnes of waste coming from the demolition of the unremarkable old Princesshay has been crushed and then recycled into the new scheme. In fact about 40,000 tonnes or over 90%. This is fantastic. There seems to be a more conscious effort to reuse old material - it has always irked me to see old demolition material going to landfill and new construction using all virgin materials. Perhaps with landfill tax it is becoming a financial imperative to go down the environmental route, I don't know.
The other thing I want to mention (and I'm afraid this is a downside) is the appearance of the new higher buildings viewed from Exeter's Cathedral Green. It is not the architecture itself, possibly anything might be more inspiring than the previous nondescript look, but it's the fact that it now breaks the skyline looking across the Green whereas the older version did not. I have to thank John Evans at his website here for pointing this out. It seems that the decision makers never consider a development's appearance from a historically critical location. I think John's photos say it all really.
I'm not going to get into any sort of Exeter versus Plymouth argument thanks very much. Just to say that the two cities are distinctly different and that Princesshay with its addition of flats and being open air as opposed to the enclosed shopping centre at Drake Circus (well it does rain more at Plymouth!) has ensured that the differentiation continues. Hooray for that I say!