At U+I, we are committed to delivering vibrant, mixed-use places that take their inspiration from their local areas and meet the needs of each community, creating affordable, desirable places people can truly enjoy – not just a place to sleep or commute from, but a place to live and thrive. And to do that, we need to be continually challenging ourselves to do things differently – and better.
So there was no better way to launch the Challenge than with a vibrant discussion between panellists Wayne Hemmingway of Hemmingway Design, Alex Schlagman, founder of SaveTheHighStreet.org, Joyeeta Das, CEO and Founder of data platform GYANA, and Will Brett, Director of Research and Campaigns at Global Future, who shared their thoughts on the challenges facing today’s high streets and what the way forward might be with Property Week’s Deputy Editor, Guy Montague-Jones.
Despite their differing backgrounds and perspectives, our panel were united in their view that the challenges facing our urban centres are also a moment of great opportunity and potential for those who are – in the words of Alex Schlagman – “adaptive, flexible and willing to be bold.” Wayne Hemmingway agreed that these are “the most exciting times for town centres we’ve experienced in a long time,” discussing the opportunity to reimagine our urban centres as places of exchange, where views, ideas and experiences can be shared.
In order to do that, we need flexible spaces which can grow and change with community needs. Joyeeta Das highlighted the need to build flexibility into the system, drawing lessons from the pop-up spaces which we have seen thriving in many of our cities in recent years to make repurposing and adapting a normal part of the way we use and think about space.
When it came to advice for Challenge participants, the importance of listening to local needs came through load and clear. Will Brett emphasised the need to actively seek out local communities and involve them in the design process, while Joyeeta and Alex pointed to the power of data to supplement community consultation and provide insight into the underlying needs for a space that communities themselves may not even be conscious of.
At U+I, we couldn’t agree more that flexibility, fresh thinking and deep and genuine consultation with the community are part of the solution to revitalise our urban centres. Through thoughtful, mixed-use regeneration, which brings together retail, offices, community and leisure spaces, we can create town centres where people can not only shop, but work, reside, meet and spend time, too. With a little imagination, and the audacity to put plans into action, we can create places that will serve their communities for years to come. They will remain relevant and the industry will adapt to an understanding that location and experience is more relevant than lease length and covenant.