Mural replaces empty unit hoardings on 'sad' looking street
- Credit: Danielle Booden
A striking new mural has supplanted the dreary hoardings formerly occupying the old BHS store on Norwich's St Stephens Street.
The mural, commissioned by Norwich's Business Improvement District (BID), is designed to enhance the "sad" looking streetscape and increase footfall to an area which in recent years has been dogged by closures and the appearance of "to let" signs on shopfronts.
Well-known artist Andrew Wilson (whose artist name is "As One Art") secured the commission against four competitors, and completed the first phase of the three-part mural at the weekend.
He will be completing two more murals over the former Argos and Brighthouse hoardings in the next week.
According to Norwich BID's project officer Victoria Nieto Felipe, his mural application stood out because of the vibrant colours, bold design and his focus on Norwich's characters, landmarks and history. She explained that the the mural's chevrons, for example, reflect the roof of Norwich's iconic and much-loved market.
She said: "We've commissioned many "City of Stories" murals over the years to improve parts of the city, and we think this one on St Stephens Street will really improve the look of the area.
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"All the empty units were making it look a bit sad.
"We've worked alongside the estate agents and landlords, and they agree that attracting attention through the mural is a great way to encourage investment - and to let people know the units are very much empty and waiting to be occupied."
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When the high street reopened in May, St Stephens Street had more empty units than independent shops.
Earlier this year, Professor Joshua Bamfield of the Centre for Retail Research admitted the street ran the risk of "feeling bland".
He said: "The offering is beginning to look like something you can find anywhere - whether it's elsewhere in Norfolk or anywhere else in the UK - and that means you're not giving shoppers enough of a reason to go there."
But there are hopes the colour and diversity the mural now brings to the thoroughfare will overwrite this negative perception.
"The murals are intended to be temporary", Ms Felipe explained. "The real reason they are there is to attract business."
Other Norwich murals painted in recent years