BD Live crit: Reimagining Canada Water

Soda Studio

British Land invited Coffey Architects, Reiach and Hall, Soda Studio and Mikhail Riches to float ideas for £4bn town centre

This year has been particularly bad for the high street. House of Fraser, Maplin and Evans Cycles are some of the high-profile victims that collapsed into administration; more generally sales are declining and there has been a record number of store closures. The pub and restaurant trade has also been badly affected. There are a number of reasons for this accelerating decline: a slowdown in consumer spending as confidence is rattled by Brexit, the continuing growth of online shopping, increases in business rates and consumers choosing to dine at home.

Yet large regeneration projects generally include a retail scheme in the centre of any new development. It gives a focus to new schemes, which is helped by including other uses such as offices and public space. People still want to buy goods in physical shops and food and drink outlets provide a lively heart to what could otherwise be soulless developments. 

This approach can be very successful as Argent’s King’s Cross scheme demonstrates. This has gone from no-go area to one of London’s most dynamic urban quarters, with new offices, homes and scores of restaurants and pubs that are packed out in the evenings and weekends. These have just been joined by a new shopping destination, Coal Drops Yard, designed by Thomas Heatherwick. The driving force behind the success of King’s Cross was Argent director Roger Madelin, who joined British Land two-and-a-half years ago to take on a new challenge. This is the regeneration of 21ha of former docks, industrial land and a tired shopping centre at Canada Water in south-east London.

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