London Bridge Could Be London's First Truly 24/7 Neighbourhood. Here's Why.
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Changes are happening rapidly all over London but perhaps nowhere so dramatically as the London Bridge area. Bisnow talked with Team London Bridge CEO Nadia Broccardo about how this forgotten nook of London is undergoing significant transformation to accommodate a spike in growth – and could become a prime example of a modern, functional 24/7 city.
Plans for the London Bridge area are eye-wateringly ambitious: to transform a commercial area of London into a thriving, green, pedestrian-powered 24/7 community. That's a big ask considering the starting point.
The first step is the opening of the London Bridge Station redevelopment, which will deliver some of the most impactful changes to the area, and increase demand for all the other slated projects, Broccardo said. The new station, with entrances on both Tooley and St. Thomas streets, will result in a 60% increase in Thameslink rail capacity. Bicycle use and the number of pedestrians are predicted to increase by 50% in the next five years, and river transport is expected to bring a substantial number of new users to London Bridge as well. That means the roads must be safe, friendly and create a sense of community for an area that has no real cohesion.
Public realm is going to be woven throughout the entire area. St. Thomas Street will be the main pedestrian route through London Bridge to Borough Market and Bermondsey Street, and will have a "shared space" approach that will support small businesses, shops, eateries and even a vibrant night economy. Retail and food options in the arches at the station periphery will help provide that vital public realm activation, Broccardo says.
But will people want to live there? Berkeley Group thinks so. The company is building One Tower Bridge, a luxury residential tower with a 24-hour Harrods concierge. The project will also feature 14 leisure and retail units and 70k SF of cultural space. That project will open up Tooley Street, Broccardo said, which will also support the 24/7 environment.
New major cultural attractions are arriving that will bring more Londoners to London Bridge — particularly young people.The Science Gallery is a project for young adults that will bring together researchers, students and artists for live research and experimentation.The programme incorporates exhibitions, events, performances, open discussions and festivals all with scientific engagement at their core.
The Bridge Theatre will be the first theatre to open in the West End in a generation.The 900-seat playhouse is headed up by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, who oversaw the National Theatre for 12 years. It will open in autumn 2017.
There is almost no retail at London Bridge, but that will change as the area repositions itself as an indie boutique destination with a mix of shops. It is a promise that hasn’t been perfectly kept. Broccardo wishes there were more creativity and variety in the retail at the new station, but the landlords were avoiding risk and going with what works. However, the council is actively seeking out artisanal and creative businesses for the new West End arches. Five or six of the arches have been specifically let to "affordable retail" outlets; the point is to craft a mix of places that are a joy to discover.
There are only three hotels in the area, but that too is about to change. Lalit London is redeveloping a Grade II listed building to a boutique luxury hotel steeped in Indian culture. The hotel will help activate the eastern side, Broccardo said, and boost the 24-hour economy; all those hotel workers will need affordable places to live and places to eat, shop and hang out.That whole area is very lacking in those amenities, Broccardo said. There used to be nightclubs and music venues, but those offers have been erased over time. The Night Tube will help bring them back, Broccardo said.
A single landlord owns pretty much everything between Tower Bridge and London Bridge, Broccardo told us, so development on the riverfront has been difficult. But the London Bridge BID plans to create the Thames Esplanade, which will connect London Bridge’s waterfront and Pier into Bankside to the west and The Queen’s Walk to Tower Bridge to the east, creating a Riverwalk connection that will form a continuous path along the Thames. Building out bars, restaurants and retail along the water has been a slow process, Broccardo said. “There is still a lot of work to do. ”And it might not even be a priority; Broccardo pointed out that London’s weather isn’t always ideal for leisurely drinks on the river.
London Bridge also holds the green shoots of a truly world-class science and medical hub – which could be the most powerful propeller of the 24/7 city.
The Guy's Hospital medical campus is closed off and dreary; many people don't even know it is there, which is a shame because it is consistently one of the top 10 cancer hospitals in the world, and is the largest hospital in the UK with 9,000 employees. Plans call for the hospital to be reoriented to face a newly vibrant St. Thomas Street, which will animate the area, and will pull in some commercial development. All those 9,000 employees, like the hotel employees, will spur the night economy. Families and visitors of patients would frequent places to sleep overnight, restaurants to refuel, places to buy odds and ends, and transportation to other parts of London.
To hear more from Broccardo and other industry experts, join us for Bisnow’s New Frontiers event on Jan. 18 at the Shard. Register here.