OWNERS of businesses at a one-thriving Hartlepool tourist hotspot have praised a developer for breathing new life into the area.
Bar bosses, restaurateurs and shop owners were critical of Mandale – the owners of units at Navigation Point on Hartlepool Marina – earlier this year after claiming they were being neglected.
They claimed the area was “shabby” and said issues such as broken lighting, lack of maintenance and a growing number of empty units had led to a dramatic drop in trade at an area which was once described as Hartlepool’s “jewel in the crown”.
But six months on, Navigation Point has had a new lease of life with most of the units now filled and a £500,000 investment from Mandale helping to improve the overall appearance.
Neil Evans, owner of the popular Black Olive bar, leads a steering group made up of various business chiefs along the marina and says everyone is now pulling together in the hope of restoring Navigation Point to its former glory.
Neil said: “We made our feelings clear to Mandale earlier in the year, and I’m pleased to say they have reacted.
“The area has been tidied up, the handrails which were rusting and peeling have been repainted, the lighting issues have been resolved and there has bene a whole new frontage put along the strip to improve the overall appearance.
“Something needed to be done, and with the help of Mandale we all got our heads together to see what we could do to move forward.
“Things are really positive now and for the first time in a long while we are moving in the right direction.”
As well as improving the upkeep of the area, plans are in place for various events to take place in the hope of attracting families to the Marina and car parking charges will be lifted throughout December and over the festive period to encourage more visitors.
Mandale boss Joe Darragh added: “We were made aware of the criticism, but it was always our intention to give the area a spruce up.
“It was in need of a facelift, it had become tired and businesses were stagnating.
“Over the last few months we have had Kilimanjaro’s and Jack Rabbit Slim opening up, and in three weeks the Thai Village restaurant will open in a unit built within the former Lotus Garden restaurant.
“It has been encouraging to see the businesses down there working together in the steering group, and there have been some really positive ideas put forward to help everyone progress.
“It was never going to happen overnight, but the overall aim is to encourage more people down there.
“It’s not just about the nightime economy, we want to get families down during the day but we need to do something to attract them.
“We have had some positive meetings with the council, we’d like to hold regular events throughout the year and we have enquired about getting Navigation Point included on a bus route to bring more people down.”
Mr Darragh added: “Hartlepool had something which was working, and it worked for 10 years.
“It fell into a rut though, and it needed a facelift. It won’t be a quick fix, but things are moving in the right direction and I hope people will support that.”