If you’ve never visited Huddersfield you may not be aware of one of its hidden and architectural gems. Byram Arcade is a beautiful Victorian Arcade built in 1880 and designed by Huddersfield architect W.H. Crossland. It houses three floors of independent shops and is situated between the train station and bus station.
However, after a recent visit it seems it may be a bit too hidden. The arcade was practically empty even though it was lunchtime and I was shocked to see the number of empty units on the ground floor. I have since heard that a business on the first floor has decided to close too.
There are a few problems as far as I can see. For many years I have been visiting Byram Arcade to go for lunch in the cafe (at this point I have to interject by saying that the current cafe, The Blue Rooms, served one of the best and tastiest sandwiches that I have ever had but that’s for another time.) However, it’s only recently that I realised there were shops on the first and second floor. It’s not clear from the signage that there are other floors with shops and the stairwell to the next floor is so uninviting that you think it goes to offices.
I’ve been told by one tenant that there is less and less footfall and some days they have no customers. If I was a first time visitor to Bryam Arcade and saw the empty units on the ground floor then I wouldn’t stay long and wouldn’t be tempted to return – without the customers, the shops begin to close, other businesses are not inclined to set up there and the cycle continues.
In yesterday’s local paper, the Huddersfield Examiner ran an article about Byram Arcade and some of the tenants seemed to have a slightly different perspective: “The units are virtually full and they are all offering something different to the multiples.” And yes when you go upstairs then it’s true that most units are full but, as they say first impressions do count.
The tenants have been doing a lot recently to get more footfall into the Arcade. They’ve organised vintage and craft fairs and the council and Huddersfield Town Centre Partnership are using the Arcade more during their major events – the extended Festival of Light held fringe events in there in December and the Food and Drink Festival will be holding some of the children’s entertainment in there.
But more needs to be done – we need to get more people visiting the arcade and wandering around all the shops on every floor. It’s definitely worth a visit so go for a coffee, a bite to eat and have a stroll around. Then you may come up with some ideas of how we can make Byram Arcade a place that people talk about and want to visit when they are in Huddersfield.