Chester was recently the first UK city to go under the microscope of the world renowned cities think tank the Urban Land Institute.

A ten-strong panel of experts from America and Europe flew in to the walled city in October to examine aspects of Chester’s potential for the future.

The project has been backed by a consortium of public and private sector stakeholders led by The Grosvenor Estate, and including, Cheshire West and Chester Council, Chester Renaissance, NWDA, Bank Of America, University of Chester and Chester Race Company.

A non profit research and education organisation, ULI provides ‘leadership in the responsible use of land in the creation of sustainable and thriving communities worldwide’. We are eagerly awaiting their report – scheduled for delivery early Spring 2011.  Ahead of the final report, the initial early findings from the ULI suggest:

  • making more use of the river – become the ‘Henley of the North’
  • transform unused row buildings into historic hotel rooms
  • bring Dee House and the amphitheatre back to use
  • make better use of the heritage assets we have
  • attract more high paying visitors to the city.

The Urban Land Institute Panel, looked at every aspect of Chester’s future from tourism and heritage to retailing and commerce, and met with over 170 people – all keen to assist them in understanding the city and its potential. A student debate was held at the University of Chester which saw a healthy exchange of views and comments – all being fed into the reporting process.

ULI President Bill Kistler, based at the Institute’s European HQ in London, said: “The panel process helps built consensus to support effort that benefits the entire community. We seek possibilities and opportunities that might have been overlooked. The programme is all about seeing things in a different way.”

Mr Kistler added: “Our goal is to provide practical, feasible solutions to enhance the economic and social fabric of Chester.”

Meetings and face to face panel discussions were held with key stakeholders representing all sections of the Chester community, including retail, tourism, financial, academic, civic and commercial worlds.

Chief Executive of Chester Renaissance, Rita Waters, said: “The opportunities for Chester are limitless and therefore our plans for the future should be inspirational and recognise the areas for opportunity, whilst also being achievable and affordable.

“Working with such an internationally renowned and respected organisation such as ULI has been an honour as well as a fantastic opportunity for Chester. We look forward to receiving their final report and are already working on some of their interim findings, with our partners. We will continue to work together for the benefit of this city in delivering change, whilst celebrating and protecting our heritage and culture.”