21st century makeover for Milton Keynes
PUBLISHED: 12:07 04 April 2017 | UPDATED: 12:07 04 April 2017
The Big 5-0 party continues… and the iconic shopping centre at its heart is receiving a 21st century makeover, Sue Bromley reports
With Milton Keynes marking 50 years since it was designated a New Town in January, 1967, there are many celebrations going on across MK. But it’s not all about history and the arts. The town that likes to be a city is known around the country for its fabulous shopping and the owners of centre:mk have announced a £60m investment in the centre. These days the centre is co-owned by Hermes Investment Management and AustralianSuper, and their plans for its future have already started to take shape with the recently completed £10m refurbishment of Sunset Walk, designed by architecture and design company, Rawls.
Over the next three years, the Grade Two-listed building will undergo a series of enhancements focused on re-imagining the iconic principles that led to the creation of one of the UK’s most dominant regional shopping centres. The next phase will see the development of new state of the art customer facilities on Deer Walk, including a customer service lounge, family facilities and WCs, together with work beginning this spring on a new 1,400 space multi-storey car park adjoining John Lewis.
Other initiatives will embrace the latest digital technology with a new centre:mk app, website, social media platform, signage and wayfinding, focused on providing visitors with information and inspiration to help them get the most from their visit.
The ‘Re-Imagining an Icon’ strategy builds on the significant enhancements made to centre:mk’s brand line-up over the last 18 months. Enticing the shoppers, Jigsaw, Hobbs, Joules, Cath Kidston, Kiehl’s, Molton Brown, The White Company and Pandora opened new stores on Sunset Walk, concentrated around House of Fraser. In addition, Smiggle, T2 and Flying Tiger have all launched successful stores and Ask has recently opened its new restaurant opposite John Lewis.
Not just shopping
Of course there’s a lot more to Milton Keynes than retail therapy and in this special year a host of events will take place. While the ‘official birthday’ on 23 January may have passed, there’s a lot to look forward to throughout the year.
On 1 May the MK Marathon will see runners on a route past Milton Keynes landmarks, with each entrant receiving a medal bearing the MK50 logo. On 17 and 18 June the heritage focus goes way past the 50 years with a History Festival featuring re-enactments.
MK will be in the worldwide spotlight from 17 June when it hosts the International New Town conference with guests from across the planet. Summer events also include Willen Hospice’s Midnight Moo charity walk. The arts take centre stage in the autumn with an outdoor spectacle produced by The Stables and Walk The Plank.
MK Gallery is leading on City Club, which will present an ambitious programme of new art, performances, family activities, events and talks.
But throughout the year there are plenty of other opportunities to get involved, perhaps with 50 Walks for MK50 in partnership with The Parks Trust or 50 Free Things To Do in MK.
And earlier days
Travel back in time a little further with a visit to Bletchley Park, where the Second World War code-breaking took place, with rooms in the Victorian mansion which take you back to the 1940s with interactive exhibits, sounds and projected images. Book in advance for afternoon tea here on selected dates and you can turn the visit into a real occasion.
Bletchley Park is also home to The National Museum of Computing in Block H on the estate. Here you’ll find the world’s largest collection of functional historic computers, including the rebuilt Colossus.
Get out and about
The Grand Union Canal provides another link with history at Milton Keynes, from Old Wolverton, cutting across the city and on to Water Eaton in Bletchley.
A walk along the canal boardwalk, managed by The Parks Trust, provides a chance to see colourful narrowboats, spot the wildlife, perhaps watch the anglers and plenty of places to stop for lunch in a waterside setting along the way. Attractions include Linford Manor Park, Great Linford Brick Kilns and the boat basin at Pennylands.
Find out more at theparkstrust.com.