A-Z of Ideas for High Streets and Town Centres

by George Grace

From the Bristol-based Town Centred website:

A: Arts districts

In broad terms, two hundred years ago we had an agricultural economy, then came the industrial economy and now and for the forseeable future it is the knowledge or creative economy. Happily town centres and high streets are very well placed to take advantage of this trend as most knowledge economy workers prefer to live and work in diverse, higher density, mixed use and mixed income places such as town centres.

In times of limited resources the arts and cultural initiatives are a most appealing community-development strategy. The fine-grained arts district — one that does not reinvent a neighborhood wholesale but enhances the existing community with diverse new development — has grown as an idea in the UK and burgeoned in the US. However they are quite complex entities with subtleties and nuances that tend to develop over long periods of time with multiple organizations and individuals contributing to a district’s character and success.

Fundamental to this approach is the sharing of resources – ie multi-tenant projects that bring different organisations together in shared space, typically in a converted building and financed by one lead organisation that takes the burden of raising capital off of smaller arts type organisations. As a community development strategy, these kinds of buildings can create a vibrant sense of place, provide a venue for diverse arts and other innovative events, and offer educational and social programs that engage local residents.

B: BIDs (Business Improvement Districts)

This is a bit of a no-brainer for struggling towns and high streets in my view. A BID is a business-led and funded partnership that seeks to improve the wider trading environment of a defined commercial area – such as a high street or town centre. BIDs vary in size but typically comprise 300-400 businesses and generate an annual income of c£3-400K by pooling the equivalent of 1-2% of rateable value of all the businesses to fund improvements to the local area – eg cleaner pavements, more security, marketing and festivals. Increasingly BIDs are aimed at making cash saving strategies for businesses by using the collective purchasing power of all of the businesses, thereby striving to make the BID levy cost-neutral to the BID levy payers.

C: Creative industries

This group of workers and businesses has been defined as the ‘Creative Class’ and estimated to comprise 30% of a developed countries workforce ranging from engineering, education, computer programming, research to arts, design, and media workers. Richard Florida who has led the research of the Creative Class concludes it will be the leading force of growth in the economy, and is expected to grow hugely in the next decade.

One of the best examples of the impact of this phenomenon in my home city of Bristol is the Tobacco Factory which was saved from demolition and turned into a model of urban regeneration. It is now a multi use building housing a Cafe Bar, oriental bistro, weekly market, creative industry work space, live/work loft apartments, theatre companies, dance studio, performing arts school and one of the most exciting small theatre venues in the country. The local high street is characterised by independent businesses that have mushroomed as a result and directly benefit the local economy.

D: Design for London

London does not lead the way in all ways but it probably does in many when it comes to creating economic success and lively, vital places. Leading the way in thinking new thinkings about High Streets in particular is Design for London, part of the Mayor’s Office. A typical initiative is High Street 2012 – an ambitious project to improve and celebrate one of London’s great high streets from Whitechapel Road to Stratford High Street, and to provide a lasting legacy from the 2012 Games for local communities. The project aims to create a thriving high street by re-enforcing the distinctive character of the places along the route, by creating places for people to stop, slow down and socialise and by balancing the needs of pedestrians and other road users. A healthier street will be created by increasing opportunities for walking, cycling, recreation and leisure. Social projects and events will bring the street to life before and during the Olympics and ensure local communities benefit from the Games, through boosting regeneration, community pride and the visitor economy.

E: Ethnic diversity

Ethnic minority groups have a high propensity to set up businesses or be self-employed. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, ethnic minority groups in the UK are far more likely to start up their own business than white people. Asian people, for example, are twice as likely to be involved in autonomous start-ups than their white counterparts; while Caribbean people are three times as likely and Africans nearly five as likely to be involved in a start-up company than white people.

The most obvious manifestation of ethnic led regeneration are ChinaTowns. London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA) was formed in August 1978 to serve the Chinese community by responding to the needs of the businesses and residents of London’s Chinatown. Less prominent is the Bangladeshi community however ‘Banglatown’ in London’s Brick Lane was established in recognition of the large Bangladeshi community living in and around this neighbourhood. Banglatown is modelled on the popular Chinatowns found in around the world, and has recently gone through a transformation, which has resulted in a more modern look. Brick Lane, one of the most popular areas in London and mostly known for its assortments of cheap curry houses, is situated only 5 minutes from the city. It is surrounded by good transport links which has made the whole area phenomenally popular with the creative community.

F: Festivals

Music, food, sport, etc – what’s not to like? The festival scene has exploded across cities in the UK over the past decade. Some of the more interesting and eclectic ones include:

  • The Big Feastival –Clapham Common, London, focusing on food and music and backed by Jamie Oliver.
  • The Brighton Festival – heavyweight arts festival featuring contemporary and classical music. Burmese rights activist Aung San Suu Kyi is 2011 artistic director.

  • Chester Rocks, Chester Racecourse, Chester – a two-day festival with a poppy Saturday and a slightly edgier Sunday with acts including Iggy & The Stooges, Echo And The Bunnymen, McFly
  • I-Tunes Festival, The Roundhouse, Camden. A month of concerts at one of London’s best venues, with free tickets up for grabs via a series of prize draws. Acts include Paul Simon, Adele, Manic Street Preachers.
  • Manchester International Festival – a dazzlingly diverse showcase for new and original arts with internationally renowned artists of every genre from hip-hop to opera. More at www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/may/21/city-based-festival-listings

Great town and city festivals of the world are listed in numerous places – for some inspiration check out Frommers www.whatsonwhen.com.

G: Gurus

Leading light at the moment is clearly Ms Mary Portas following her invitation by the Prime Minister to undertake an independent review on the Future of the High Street – to help ‘bring back the bustle’ to our town centres. ‘With town centre vacany rates doubling over the last two years, the need to take action to save our high streets has never been starker. I am calling on business, local authorities and shoppers to contribute their ideas on how we can halt this decline in its tracks and create town centres that we can all be proud of. In the first 3 months of the review over 1500 suggestions were received.”

(Mary Portas’ review is now on line.)

Other honourable mentions include the National Skills Academy for Retail provides access to consistent, high quality training for retail businesses, their employees and future workforce, The Retail Think Tank, which was conceived and created to provide an’ authoritative, credible and trusted window on what is really happening in retail. Through its quarterly meetings it develops and publishes thought leadership on the key areas influencing the future of retailing, which are designed to address both the health of the sector and the challenges it faces. More at www.retailthinktank.co.uk/white-papers.

H: Howard de Walden on Marylebone High St, London

Kudos to the most enlightened high street landlord in the country. This is a great High Street story – and there aren’t many! It is hard to believe that Marylebone High St was 1/3 empty in the 90s. One of the platforms to change was the significant lead property owner – Howard de Walden Estate – who had a start position of owning circa 1/3 of the high street.

New management at the Estate recognised that if the traditional values of the High Street were restored, this would dramatically improve the quality of the retail offering and would lift the area as a whole, including the office and residential values of the Estate’s adjoining properties. It was clear the High Street had to attract significantly more shoppers from outside the immediate area. The starting point was to bring in a supermarket to anchor the prime location of the High Street. The Estate chose Waitrose as it was felt it would draw people in from other areas to a greater degree than a Tesco. At the northern end of the High Street a derelict tyre depot had been empty for years was sold on a long lease to the Conran Shop to provide a 25,000 sq ft store which would anchor at the northern end of the High Street, but provide a high quality retailer whose presence in Marylebone High Street could create the reassurance needed to attract smaller retailers for the standard shops in the High Street.

Next step was to improve the quality of the retailers of the smaller shops. Many units were occupied by photocopying shops, travel agents and retailers who had lost their way. Many of these retailers had statutory rights and could renew their leases at a market rent. However with offers of alternative accommodation in side streets were persuaded to move and make way for an injection of fresh retail ideas into the High Street.

After gaining possession of some of the smaller units, many of these were extended as they were awkward in shape, damp and uneconomic in size. In the majority of instances, the light-well was covered over and the shop knocked through so that it contained approximately 700 sq ft or so of relatively open retail accommodation, which was far more economical. Dull, rectangular retail units were not pursued despite being what many multiple retailers seem to crave. Some quirkiness and character was retained in shops to create a more interesting retail environment such as The Natural Kitchen and Skandium. Not all of the street needed changing and it was important to look after what was good, such as Daunt’s Books and the ever popular Patisserie Valerie. The tenant selection avoided multiples who frequented Oxford Street just 800 metres away. Retailers who had a point of difference were sought, were exclusive in terms of their merchandise but not price point and would service the needs of the majority of our residents and the local working population. The rest is history.

I: Infrastructure

The great thing about town centres and high streets is that they require relatively little or even no significant further infrastructure relative to most brownfield and certainly greenfield development. Although there will be the invariable resistance from ‘NIMBYs’, additional development and ‘densification’ of existing high streets is a highly economic way for a council to not only improve the supply of affordable residential in their towns/cities but it also acts as significant walkable demand for local shops. Consider; a typical visitor or office worker might spend £5-10 but a new resident within a couple of hundred yards of a high street with a decent food retail offer might spend thousands across the year.

J: Joint Ventures (JVs)

As menionted in ‘B’ above it is relatively straight forward to engage business occupiers in a meaningful partnership (including funding it) – ie a BID. It is significantly harder to engage landlords and property owners as most high streets and town centres are characterized by a highly fragmented ownership map with literally hundreds of owners. This is a challenge in bringing meaningful physical regenerative change however there are a couple of approaches worth considering:

  • Local Asset Backed Vehicles – with councils and other public sector bodies owning very significant property holdings in most constituencies the prospect of creating a multi-property (including development sites) long term development company in partnership with a private sector developer (who brings cash and expertise) is a realistic one and has been adopted by councils such as Croydon and Bournemouth as the platform to bring very significant development.
  • Voluntary Developer Partnerships – in the absence of significant public sector ownership and thus leadership methods that align private sector owners need to be considered. One of the more interesting approaches is that provided by a consortium of 15+ landowners/developers in Paddington who collectively have delivered nearly £4bn worth of development with the common link between them being a voluntary arrangement in which they all pay a modest subscription into a pool to run a small executive team that manages the ‘common elements’ between the various individual companies (ie masterplanning, liaison with Westminster Council, public realm, neighbourhood management, setting up a BID for business occupiers etc).

K: Khan (Janette Sadik) – NY Transport Commissioner

Someone once said of New York if you can make it there you can etc… I figure the same about this city in terms of successfully making their streets more relevant to people using the place on foot rather than driving through at +30mph. In other words ‘livable’, bike & pedestrian friendly but still relevant to and accommodating to all modes including the car. She has introduced low-cost innovative concepts, thinking outside the box and drawing on successful street designs from around the world to come up with a NYC model that is already changing the way the city feels. If you’re tired of reading this A-Z try this great video for a little inspiration around turning NY’s highways in to people friendly streets.

L: Liveability

Why are 80% of the world’s most ‘liveable’ cities in Canada or Australasia (as measured by The Economist?) They must be doing something differently and are clearly worthy of much closer inspection. Regularly occupying top-spot in the Economist’s rankings is Vancouver. A stunning city that has transformed itself in the past two decades.

Regeneration professionals refer to the ‘Vancouver Miracle’ how Vancouver has the fastest-growing residential downtown in North America – since the late ’80s the idea of living ‘downtown has become so feverish that developers now market lifestyle as much as units…selling the cultural premium that’s based on the neighbourhood and equally relevant to families as singles.

People typically live in beautiful but small apartments with good views that give an expansive feel. Shops tend to be ‘just next door’ as is coffee culture and eateries. This vitality has been sudden. Development in Vancouver’s central city has escalated at a pace far exceeding the expectations of city hall and is 10 years ahead of its original schedule with 80,000 people living in the downtown peninsula and growing.

M: Meanwhile Uses

Meanwhile is the temporary use of vacant buildings or land for a socially beneficial purpose until such a time that they can be brought back into commercial use again. It makes practical use of the ‘pauses’ in property processes, giving the space over to uses that can contribute to quality of life and better places whilst the search for a commercial use is ongoing.

The idea is best articulated by the Meanwhile Project;­ ‘Meanwhile is a philosophy, a policy and a programme of work. As a philosophy Meanwhile is based on the belief that empty properties spoil town centres, destroy economic and social value, and waste resources that we cannot afford to leave idle. Vibrant interim uses led by local communities will benefit existing shops, as well as the wider town centre, through increased footfall, bringing life back to the high street and making better use of resources overall’.

Meanwhile is referenced in the Government’s ‘Looking after our town centres‘ document. As a programme of work, the Meanwhile Project has been providing practical and financial support for a wide range of meanwhile approaches in towns throughout the country, as well as technical advice, manuals and common tools to help anyone who wants to do something positive in the meanwhile.

N: Neighbourhood Placemaking (and CNU)

The Congress for New Urbanism is the leading organisation in the world promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions. For nearly twenty years, CNU has promoted ‘New Urbanism’, ie places where people can live, work, shop, and interact with their neighbours. The most sustainable neighborhoods tend to exhibit high levels of walkability, a sense of place, social cohesion and stability, and neighborhood resiliency amidst changing economic and sociopolitical conditions and include:

  • A discernible center
  • Housing within a five minute walk of the center and including a variety of dwelling types
  • A variety of stores and commercial activity including flexible backyard “ancillary” buildings
  • A school and playgrounds within walking distance
  • Connected, narrow, shaded streets conducive to pedestrians and cyclists
  • Buildings close to the street at a pedestrian scale
  • Parking or garages placed behind buildings and away from street frontages
  • Prominent civic and public buildings with a community decision process for maintenance, security, and neighborhood development

Adopting these sorts of principles in plans for town centres and high streets would at a stroke create a platform in terms of planning and development that would be of huge benefit economicaly, socially and environmentally. More at www.nrdc.org/cities/smartgrowth/files/citizens_guide_LEED-ND.pdf.

O: Old (ie Heritage)

Integrating and promoting heritage buildings into regenerative town centre schemes can help create popular, successful urban quarters with real character, where people want to shop, work, live and or follow leisure pursuits. As English Heritage rightly contend, historic buildings:

  • create a focal point that people can relate to and are familiar with, giving a sense of place
  • they may be well-loved local landmarks which the community will rally around to support or save
  • the fabric and design can add a distinctive identity to the ‘new build’ part of a regeneration scheme – enhancing townscapes and lifting the overall quality of the built environment
  • they can assist in achieving sustainable development objectives
  • they may attract tenants/occupiers who would not be interested in a less distinctive building
  • they feed people’s interest in the past.

A great example is the Tobacco Factory. Equally impressive and also in Bristol (if not a high street but the principles are the same) is Paintworks – the website offers great photos of before and after showing how a place can be made that is really attractive for the creative and knowledge industries.

Even if the place you are seeking to regenerate doesn’t have a wonderful old tobacco factory or similar that’s crying out to be refurbished, don’t be too hasty to seek developers and gap funding to knock everything down and start again. That sort of large scale redevelopment requires premium tenants to occupy the newly developed space paying premium rents. That by definition cuts out small, emerging, independent local businesses seeking to start or grow a business on a shoestring. This is something that Jane Jacobs pointed out in her seminal work fifty years ago (The Death and Life of Great American Cities) but is still an underappreciated principle of good towncentre revitalisation.

Another Bristol example, where a distinctly average building has brought extraordinary positive change to a high street is Hamilton House on Stokes Croft in Bristol – one of the saddest, plainest, buildings anywhere yet has been brought to life by a unique combination of local arts, culture, enterprise and leisure uses – and all on a shoestring budget.

P: Public Realm

Gehl Architects – pre-eminent amongst public realm designers and central to the turnaround of numerous towns and cities around the world. Melbourne’s city centre amongst many other major successes. Key recommendations centred on improving the pedestrian network, making gathering places of excellent quality, strengthening street activity by physical changes and encouraging more people to use the city. Key recommendations that have been enacted and helped the city become one of the most liveable places anywhere (officially according to the Economist) included:

  • A larger residential in-town community and in particular students
  • Improved streets to support public life
  • New squares, promenades and parks
  • Revitalized lanes and arcades
  • Arts programmes
  • Places to stop and sit
  • An integrated strategy for street furniture

For more on Gehl in Melbourne: http://www.gehlarchitects.dk/files/pdf/Melbourne_small.pdf

Q: Quirky

Retail academics suggest there are two core strategies for success. Either be a low cost leader or be ‘differentiated’ – ie an alternative ‘niche’ offer. This applies equally to town centres as it does to individual shops and is territory that traditional centres are infinitely more suited to making their own in contrast to modern out of town shopping centre.

This issue has been taken up by the New Economics Foundation who coined the term ‘clone town’ – their concerns that traditional local shops have been replaced by swathes of identikit chain stores, making high streets up and down the country virtually indistinguishable from one another. Retail spaces once filled with a thriving mix of independent butchers, newsagents, tobacconists, pubs, bookshops, greengrocers and family-owned general stores are becoming filled with faceless supermarket retailers, fast-food chains, and global fashion outlets. Their response to this is a manifesto that includes community veto of chain stores, rate relief for small retailers, local competition policy, mandatory code of conduct for supermarkets, local money flows’ analysis, local retail plans (which cap the size of supermarkets), support for Community Development Finance Initiatives (CDFIs) and Community banking.

Although there isn’t a handy list or website referencing quirky high streets the Academy of Urbanism’s annual awards is a very useful reference, with ‘best streets’ with recent winners including Steep Hill, Lincoln; Northern Quarter, Manchester; Exmouth Market (pictured), London; Princesshay, Exeter; Coin St, London; St Pauls, Bristol; Grey St, Newcastle; Skipton High St, Portobello Road, London; etc.

The capital of quirky in the US is probably Austin, Texas. Keep Austin Weird is the slogan adopted by the Austin Independent Business Alliance to promote small businesses. The book Weird City,discusses the cultural evolution of the “Keep Austin Weird” movement as well as its commercialization and socio-political significance. The Austin Independent Business Alliance is among at least 75 local groups affiliated with the American Independent Business Alliance, a national non-profit that supports and connects pro-local community-based organizations.

R: Residential

The positive contribution of residential development to high streets and town centres is often overlooked. Residents are frequent shoppers, helping to sustain the local day and night time economy spending many thousands of pounds more than visitors and tourists. Sustainability goals are also supported because large proportions of residents walk or cycle to their work place and other city centre attractions showing reduced reliance on the private car.

Numerous sources confirm the benefits for anything from neighbourhood to city centres of introducing more residential development. The renaissance of Melbourne’s city centre included an 800% increase in the decade to 2002. Over a similar period the UK, Manchester’s grew by nearly 300%. In addition to the buzz and vitality a populace living close to a centre can contribute very significant demand to support struggling businesses and services. In addition residents living so close to centres and by definition key public transport links will have a more sustainable footprint thanks to reduced reliance on cars.

Whilst high rise is not going to appeal to all it is important that minds are opened to mid-rise (ie c4-7 storey) development in and around high streets and town centres. Many British high streets were built on a two storey model which is generally not enough to support many local businesses and create the buzz and vibe at ground level that most people want. A densification to something approaching inner Paris – eg this Montmarte image below – would benefit local businesses and provide an opportunity for thousands more homes to be provided relatively easily (in terms of mimimal infrastructure and avoiding greenfield) in our key cities.

S: Specialty and Independent Shops

We referenced the work of landlord Howard de Walden on Marylebone High Street. Delving deeper into their approach for the sort of retail occupiers they sought is illuminating. First of all when fitting out shops, dull, rectangular retail units were not pursued despite being what many multiple retailers seem to crave. They sought to retain or even create some quirkiness and character to help stimulate a more unique and interesting retail environment – see as examples The Natural Kitchen and Skandium. Clearly not all of the street needed changing – it was important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater and to look after what was good, such as Daunt’s Books, Patisserie Valerie.

Major multiples were avoided (ie they sort of user found on Oxford Street a meret 800 metres away) Retailers who had a point of difference were sought that were exclusive in terms of their merchandise but not price and would service directly the needs of local residents and working population – in short the vision of a friendly urban village.

Working with professional advisors on tenant mix can be challenging as most agents are geared to doing deals with multiples and have no real understanding of what works for the small retailers. Constant dialogue with residents, spouses, friends and anyone else who has a local, informed view, about which new retailer would fit into Marylebone High Street was key.

A unique mix of specialist and independent shops will generate significant positive press reaction – in the case of Marylebone after a while it generated such momentum it negated any need to promote the Street. The street has confounded traditional retail theory by creating best value, not by letting to blue chip multiples but by doing the very opposite and creating a community and genuine urban village.

T: Tangible Turnarounds – Melbourne

How do you go from ‘An empty useless city centre’ (local news paper The Age commenting on its own city in 1978):

To world’s best in 2011:

Exemplars of town and city centres that have turned themselves around are useful if for nothing else other than inspiration and confirmation that it can be done. Particularly interesting are the ones that have relied on working with the existing grain of their place (as opposed to large scale demolition) and one of the best examples of this is Melbourne. Against common conceptions Melbourne does not rely on especially superior weather, but instead relies on careful management of the public realm; re-introduction of active ground floor uses wherever possible; promotion of entrepreneurial small/medium sized food and other leisure uses; arts and culture in the centre; and catalysing major investment in city centre residential accommodation.

In particular the ‘Melbourne Lanes’ have been enormously successful:

These alleys – used until recently for no more than garbage storage – have been reintroduced as intimate, human scale ‘eatery corridors’ underpinned by the authenticity provided by re-fitting or retro-fitting existing buildings rather than whole scale clearance and demolition. The result has been Melbourne’s dramatic rise up the ‘World’s Most Livable City’ charts as measured by the Economist. However most striking about the past decade of these surveys is the prominence of Australian and Canadian cities who make up 7 out of the top ten. The question has to be asked what are they doing to make such a difference? We’ll be looking at this in more detail later.

U: Urban Village

Urban villages are seen by many to provide an alternative to the predominant pattern of 20th century urban development, especially urban sprawl and aim to:

  • Stimulate medium density mixed use development in town centres
  • Reduce reliance on cars in favour of walking, cycling and public transport
  • Be ‘self contained’ ie enable people to work, live and enjoy leisure pursuits without jumping in the car to get from A to B
  • Promote strong community interaction
  • An emphasis on well-designed public space with priority for pedestrians

Proponents believe that urban villages provide a potential alternative to the social ills that characterize modernism in cities, such as freeways and high-rise estates. Certainly much of the thinking behind urban villages will prove to support vital town centres.

V: Village Well

Village Well are an Australian place-making consultancy and one of the reasons the country’s cities are so ‘livable’ and Melbourne is #1 (see ‘Turnarounds’ above). Based in Melbourne they describe their work ‘over the past two decades, Village Well has refined and developed unique processes of analysis, engagement, innovation, research and project management that enable us to tap into the potential of the community and discover the essence of a place that directly informs its development and use. After all, the community that lives, works and plays in a place knows it best’.

Village Well are more in touch with the idea of localism and community than anyone I have come across but are able to match this soft touch with robust methods. Their placemaking model has been proven on many projects ranging in scale and complexity. The model allows them to consider all aspects of a project from global perspectives to individual values, across time and cultures to deliver succinct principles and recommendations for all project stakeholders to understand and implement. Their core stated aims are to keep it simple and actionable – and that starts with a good strategic model with which to organise thoughts and create an action plan. Most elements of the model will be self explanatory, but to elaborate briefly by:

  • ‘place’ they mean relationship between people and their physical environment;
  • ‘program’ they mean marketing, events, management – expressing what is unique and attractive about a place for locals and visitors alike and achieved through place branding and marketing strategies, events, public art and other formal and informal activities and it is essential that the community is involved wherever possible;
  • ‘product’ – is more than simply what is on offer for sale – great places are made up of more than a retail experience; they include civic, cultural, office and residential components, the provision of community services and basic facilities such as bathrooms and children’s play areas with access for all.

W: Walkability

Investing in walking environments can support local economies by increasing footfall, improving accessibility and attracting new business and events. Research shows that investment in the walking environment is likely to be of equal or better value for money than other transport projects. Retailers and residents express a willingness to pay for improvements to the walking environment, while good quality public realm increases the value of both residential and commercial property. Research also even shows that residents of walking friendly neighbourhoods are less likely to be depressed or to have poor mental or physical health.

Currently in the UK, policy is changing in favour of more pedestrian orientated places. Places like Exeter provides an excellent example of the manifestation of these policies when properly implemented in their city centre renewal – ‘Princesshay’ has drawn favourable comments and awards from English Heritage (‘remarkable as much for the thoughtfulness of its urban design as for the inspirational quality of most of its architectural components’ and for ‘the adoption in Exeter of best practice principles for the regeneration of historic cities’) and the British Council of Shopping Centres who awarded the scheme ‘Supreme Gold Award’ in 2007.

Central to the scheme’s success has been the promotion of reduced car parking provision for city centre residential, relying instead on better public transport and ensuring that purchasers of apartments in the centre had most of their key needs satisfied without having to resort to car based travel. At its heart the development is a mixed-use scheme that meets sustainability objectives by minimising trip numbers and distances, addressing social and economic vitality and recognising the city’s heritage.

X-Y-Z: X-Y-Z – pronounced ex-iz and short for existential.

Ok I may be getting a desperate here but amongst other things existential is defined as ‘based on experience’ – and this really is the ace that high streets and town centres can pull from their sleeves to start the fight back against the internet and out-of-town development. Town centres and high streets have inherent advantages in this regard, best articulated by ICIC (Institute for Competitive Inner City) – which has been responsible for helping seemingly lost causes to not only get back on their feet but to thrive. The best example in the UK being Shoreditch/Hoxton in London, a hotbed of hi-tech innovation that is framing itself as Tech City, the cluster has grown from 15 to 300 organisations in only 3 years and is roundly backed by central government to become #1 in Europe for these key industries.

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One thought on “A-Z of Ideas for High Streets and Town Centres

  1. Now that Peacocks has gone into administration what can be done to prevent the large Peacocks shop on Gloucester Road being snapped up by yet another supermarket? Independents action urgently needed to forstall this. Gloucester Road (that bit) already has a Sainsburys local, a Co-op, a Tesco Metro and another co-op at the garage and a couple of SPAR shops. Not to mention the Tesco metro on Cheltenham Road & the Sainsbury’s local by the prison. Not more restaurants or coffee shops either – we need useful shops to keep the place vibrant – perhaps someone would like to alert Mary Portas.

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