New development must be co-creation
As a property company we have the unusual privilege of being landlord, master-developer, developer, asset manager and public sector partner. And as a developer, we don’t build and leave. Our London estate, at the heart of our global city, has evolved for 300 years to changing needs. We want it to continue to evolve, to see it survive and flourish.
So the impact of any change brought about by development has to reverberate positively for people, places and communities for years. It calls for an act of co-creation with those who are close to change and benefit from it.
We have a vision for our London estate in Mayfair & Belgravia. Over the next 20 years, we want the estate to be more active, more open and more integrated - a more popular place for more people. The way in which we communicate and collaborate to bring about that change is fundamentally important to us - and never more so than now.
Our model for consultation
Key to bringing about lasting social benefit to workers, residents and visitors - with better streets, greener spaces and more enterprising places - is close and timely conversation. We’ll need to have a richer conversation with stakeholders. To do that well, we’ll need to draw on our long-standing discussions and relationships with residents and businesses. We live in a time when providing an opinion has never been easier. With a swipe of our smartphone, anyone can comment and share their view in an instant.
We know the richest conversations take time and are done face to face. We took that approach when gathering views on a new hub for creative enterprise, independent businesses and co-working, on the boundaries of Victoria and Belgravia. On previously derelict and underused land, surrounded by homes and businesses, we have now finished the development of Eccleston Yards. It will host 19 units for food, fashion, co-working and wellbeing around a new public square. It will champion and introduce new and innovative brands. It will establish a community of like-minded businesses and a mix of offers for workers and visitors.
Taking time to reflect on change
Located next to the arrivals hall of Victoria Coach station, with dilapidated garages, a substation and low grade offices, this site for Eccleston Yards presented a rare pocket of unfulfilled potential in South Belgravia. We wanted to activate it. We wanted our London estate to work harder for the capital by offering new enterprise space and drawing new public appeal.
We chose face to face conversations with individuals mostly, small groups where necessary. We set out our vision to bring others with us - and to negotiate rather than tell. People gave us their ideas, their concerns, their aspirations. We fielded colleagues from across the business and at all levels of leadership, ensured no voice was unheard and checked that all parties felt the appropriate decision-makers were in the room, weighing in on the discussion but also listening to and considering all views.
We gave walking tours for residents, local businesses and councillors, lifting their eyes to the potential of the site and allowing them to picture its possibilities and the trade-offs inherent in delivering them. We asked for ideas and reflected them - down to the smallest details to meet the needs of locals, such as lowering lighting levels to prevent glare in surrounding windows.
In short, we asked people to give their views on placemaking. We’re in the business of urban change management, and we survive on the quality of the conversation around it. In the case of Eccleston Yards, we had that conversation with over 300 people and the result was a fundamentally better place.
So we’ll take time to talk
We work from a long history and take a long-term view. Creating and managing great urban neighbourhoods, in London and across the rest of the country, is profoundly challenging. It requires time. Time to start and maintain an inclusive, sophisticated and honest conversation about the trade-offs inherent in delivering great places.