Today, I attended the inaugural conference of Britain’s new regeneration lobby UKR. I’ll be writing up the event for City Mayors, so more of that later. For now, I want to talk about the location: Paddington, a project which UKR CEO Jackie Sadek has been involbed with since 1997. As a non-Londoner I didn’t know how badly this central London location was viewed: for me it was just the home of Paddington Bear. But now I’ve seen the pre-1998 photos: run-down, brownfield sites lying idle because the famously inaccurate tube map makes it look further out and less well connected than it actually is, and the retail offering is poor. But then the Heathrow Express was mooted and prospects started looking up.
The Paddington Waterside Partnership was set up in 1998 to coordinate development among a myriad of 14 different schemes across 80 acres, all in different land ownership, which had to negotiate hurdles such as ancient convenants and rights of way. Westminister City Council designated the area as the Paddington Special Policy Area, allowing commercial and larger scale development. In 2008, tha Myor of London identified Paddington as an Opportunity Area.
It’s working, slowly, but even one of the conference attendees who lives around the corner had no idea that a pleasant waterside location was taking shape there. More than 1.9 million square feet has already been delivered, and there’s almost as much to come. It’s a mainly office development for the moment – with M&S a notable customer – but cafes are opening, and the developers are making real steps to create a sense of place and community (inviting a weekly farmers market for example).
The photo is from the top of 5 Merchant Square, a 15-storey commercial scheme designed by architect Michel Mossessian, who showed us around. His building is next to ones by Richard Rogers and Terry Farrell.