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Breathing New Life Into Our Town Centres

Louise Metson, planning associate and Lauren Warner from Cripps Pemberton Greenish, comment

The retail industry is going through radical change and, with more and more high street shops standing empty, town centres are in need of a revival. Local councils, landowners and property investors alike are transforming these spaces so that they are no longer just a place we go to shop but rather a destination to meet, live, work and play. In real estate, this trend is demanding a better balance in our built environment between residential, retail, leisure, health, education and office assets. But, what does this mean for property investors? In an age of service and experience-driven consumerism, how do we unlock this potential in our town centres and generate long term value?

(1) Identify key sites to regenerate
‘Space’ is a finite resource. Many sites lie derelict awaiting transformation. Space regeneration can create thriving places when combined with well connected, well serviced locations. A major study by  independent consultancy, Regeneris has revealed the broad social and economic benefits of the £3bn rebirth of Kings Cross, which capitalises on transport links and seamlessly blends multiple uses on a 67-acre site. On a smaller scale, at Cripps Pemberton Greenish, we are currently working with a local authority to make their £200m regeneration project possible. Their new cultural quarter in the town centre is designed to provide seamless living, leisure and retail around a ‘sustainable community’ of 100 new homes, student housing, shops and leisure facilities. The scheme harnesses the town’s heritage. Tree-lined avenues, courtyards and open spaces will encourage linger time and stimulate a day-and-night time economy. Drawing on the economic philosophy that space and goods are better shared, projects such as these demonstrate movement towards the creation of mixed-use spaces that are connected destinations in which we can live, work and play.

(2) Bridge the gap between investors and local authorities to collaborate
Regenerating space takes time and money. Local Authorities often hold the land that is key to bringing forward this type of place-based regeneration. We are increasingly seeing collaborations between Local Authorities and property investors. This combination of forces brings public resources and policies together with expertise and funding from the private sector.

Collaboration projects are generally structured as joint ventures between the Council and the investor. Key stakeholders need to consider:

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