In their heyday, Britain’s seaside resorts were a mainstay of the holiday calendar, and Blackpool—with its iconic Blackpool Tower, world-famous illuminations, and rollercoasters—was once an exemplar of the British coastal vacation experience. However, like many other coastal resorts, Blackpool had declined in recent years as tourists opted for cheap, accessible package holidays abroad.
In November 2002, Blackpool Borough Council entrusted AECOM and the Jerde Partnership (architects) to help reverse this decade-long decline. After substantial stakeholder consultation, a masterplan emerged that incorporates physical and economic strategies to deliver bold and progressive change. From this master plan, three key projects were identified for early implementation:
- Southern Gateway
- Central Corridor
- Promenade and Coastal Defences
The Southern Gateway, a pivotal site adjacent to Blackpool’s renowned Pleasure Beach, was the first project to be implemented, and advances the AECOM/Jerde masterplan’s emphasis on the redesign of key arrival spaces. A sculptural form evoking a breaking wave was created along a one-km stretch of promenade to mark visitors’ arrival and provide an entrance into the car park. 30 meters long and four meters high, the wave has the words “South Beach” incised into it. At night, programmable LED lights ripple along the crest behind blue glass and resin.
The 19 acre (8-hectare) Central Corridor is a major new park as well as another striking new arrival space for visitors. A high water table, two large sewage tanks and complex use and ground conditions made this a challenging undertaking, but the result is a safe, relaxing and enjoyable place for people who live and work in the area. The park features a brightly-colored play area, community garden terraces and two 20-meter climbing towers designed in collaboration with artist Gordon Young.
The master plan will inject new life into Blackpool’s existing landmarks like the Illuminations light show, the promenade, and Pleasure Beach, while rebuilding its historic tram, restoring the Victorian architecture and creating new green spaces. Redevelopment is expected to be realized over the next 15-20 years. In addition to boosting tourism for the entire United Kingdom, the master plan is expected to create 33,000 new jobs.