After a lot of hard work and collaboration the Greyfriars Townscape Heritage Initiative £1.5M five year heritage led regeneration programme, jointly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and Leicester City Council starts on the 14th May 2015 with a launch event in the city. De Montfort University’s Digital Building Heritage Group has supported and contributed to this initiative since its inception with student projects which have systematically analysed for the first time the architectural styles and forms of the buildings which make up this important but somewhat neglected quarter of the city and proposed new buildings that are in keeping with the old. The DBHG is set to play a continuing role as this major architectural and cultural project develops with further initiatives to better understand the existing urban fabric and future potential of this area. The aim is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the historic Greyfriars area of Leicester by preserving, restoring and enhancing its buildings and its public realm. The project, administered and led by Leicester City Council will offer grants to help pay for repair and restoration to building frontages, reinstating lost architectural features like original windows and doors, fencing and decorative masonry and bringing empty floor space back into use. Grants will pay up to 80% of the eligible project costs for eligible buildings. More information and a downloadable leaflet is available here. In addition to this there will a substantial programme of hands-on activities and training events to enable a wide range of stakeholders and the public to gain a much better understanding of the historic environment.
The Digital Building Heritage Group will be making its skills available during the project to help stakeholders visualise, interpret and work with the development of their individual properties and the public realm and with community groups to better understand the history of the Greyfriars area specifically and more generally the importance of historic urban fabrics to society and people’s lives. As well as working with De Montfort University, Leicester City Council is working alongside The University of Leicester, Leicester College and Leicester Civic Society as well as a range of local community groups to bring the benefits of this major project to as wide an audience as possible. There are plans for pop-up shops and events, training in heritage skills, advice on how to look after historic buildings and opportunities to share stories and memories of the area. Greyfriars may have come to worldwide attention since the discovery of the remains of King Richard III in a car park at the back of the council buildings which occupy the northern section of the area but the area has always been of special architectural interest because of the pressure for development and the fact that a large part of Georgian Leicester is preserved in the central part of the Greyfriars conservation area. It was in fact one of the first three conservation areas established in Leicester. It is a key part of the wider fabric of the city linking the De Montfort University campus to city center.