The start of the project marks a key step in the plans, which will uncover the river and bring pocket parks to the town centre.
The first stage will reveal the river on the corner of Bute Street and Silver Street on the former car park site – which was originally home to Victorian pubs and industry including hat making.
Work on the busy pedestrian street – which is one of the main walkways into town from the railway station – is due to be completed later this year, and will result in a small park with a stepped terrace down to the river plus lots of new greenery.
Further plans for opening up the river are in the pipeline, which will result in more of the river flowing through the area creating new waterside space and a green corridor that will also help improve air quality.
There will also be a series of other green corridors extending into the town centre and more tree planting, making an even greener town centre.
Facing the location of the new pocket park is Our River – a piece of public artwork that has recently been installed on the Mall wall.
People connected to Luton submitted their images for this huge photomosaic last year to honour those lost to the Covid-19 pandemic, but also to celebrate the hard work of people who kept Luton safe and reflect on the happy and momentous occasions that defined the pandemic.
The artwork will be officially marked at a separate event.
Councillor Sian Goding, portfolio holder for regeneration and inclusive growth at Luton Council, said: “When we announced the launch of our Masterplan for the town centre, we acknowledged that the process wouldn’t be a short one. However, we are making strides and the work to open up the River Lea and the wonderful photomosaic opposite where that sits shows we are delivering on our promise to make the area greener, and more attractive.
“We continue to make changes in other areas, too, with new developments and improvements planned and in progress. Combined with a return of a busy events programme, there will be a wider range of things for people to do so our businesses and residents will ultimately be able to enjoy a more thriving town centre”.
Other developments in progress include the Stage, a multi-purpose development where Bute Street car park sits, which will include 372 homes and new community, retail and business spaces.
The project, which received £20m of levelling up funding, will support the growth of businesses in various sectors and so help create local employment opportunities, skills, and training available and will be completed by 2025.
More good news for the town comes in the form of £238,000 received from the Partnerships for People and Place fund.
The council says it will focus on the immediate challenges to ensure a strong economic recovery and protect the town’s most disadvantaged residents from the worst impacts of the pandemic.