London Up All Night: Behind The Scenes Of The Making Of A Night-Time Economy
With dramatic views of London around him, Shard developer Irvine Sellar launched Bisnow's New Frontiers event with a keynote about London Bridge's transformation. The once-gritty neighbourhood "where body parts are sold" is becoming the epicentre of London's push for a vibrant night economy.
300 guests joined us at the only available floor of The Shard Wednesday morning to learn about how developers can spur and benefit from increased night activity. London’s nocturnal economy is worth about £26.3B annually, or around 8% of London’s GDP, and is expected to rise to £30B by 2023. London developers hungry to capture that gain got one giant leap closer with Sadiq Khan’s launch of Night Tube earlier this summer. Night Time Commission for London chair Philip Kolvin, who was handpicked by Khan, laid out a road map to invigorate and manage lively London nights.
London already has an example of a night economy, Kolvin said. The 2012 London Olympics transformed the city in both temporary and lasting ways. While the games were on, retailers stayed open late and tourists enjoyed the streets and sights into the wee hours. There was a wonderful sense of bustling life in the city. “Let’s get that feeling back,” he said.
Emphasising the government’s concern for genuine diversity, Kolvin stressed that the city must work for all Londoners. A 70-year-old should feel as safe as a 20-year-old on the streets at night, Kolvin said. That means embracing all forms of leisure and retail — not just nightclubs (though Kolvin cracked he now knows more about dubstep than he thought possible), but also night time poetry readings and yoga classes.
Kolvin said a nurse getting off her shift at Guy’s Hospital at 4 a.m. has no real place to have a cup of coffee and a hot bowl of porridge to unwind. She has no gyms to burn off stress, no place she feels safe to walk around the streets alone, no places to meet a friend who may be getting off work around the same time. A potential solution, Southwark Council’s John Peters told the crowd, is reusing real estate – shops, railway arches and even church crypts, and building over old viaducts and rail lines. Retail shuttered for the night isn’t making money, but it could be, and it gives night owls a place to be.
Kolvin raised the issue of how to balance wanting people to enjoy the city 24 hours a day with being mindful that many are sleeping. He suggested we protect residents by improving the standards of behaviour. Social ills can be solved, he said, citing smoking. By scorning raucous yelling in residential streets at 11 p.m., we can make the night-time work both for those who want to enjoy the open-all-night pubs and those who want quiet.
Global trends, including the war for talent, will impact London’s night-time economy. Since so many young people cannot afford to live in the city, they form their own communities on the edges of town. West London is on the vanguard of that movement, according to Westfield president Peter Miller. The vibrancy is evident in the streets; the retail is well-occupied, and people are creating and regenerating good neighbourhoods like Shepard’s Bush and Croyden, all underpinned by reliable transportation. Building more affordable residential will bring young professionals and immigrants back into the city and feed demand for night-time services.
Other experts debated the paucity of tall buildings in Southwark, as well as the regeneration of Victorian arches as quirky-cool retail outlets, and many ideas were volleyed to animate the public realm. Contributing to the cultural theme of the event, Bisnow hosted a sculptor who allowed attendees at the rock, and huge works of abstract art were on display.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of our series, London At Night, and more insights from panelists at our New Frontiers event, including Great Portland Estates CEO Toby Courtauld, National Rail managing director David Biggs and British Property Federation CEO Melanie Leech.