Opportunities for design as shops return to Cheapside

London’s Cheapside is to become a major shopping district again for the first time since the departure of its medieval market, opening up design opportunities all across the Square Mile.

Due for completion in 2012, 12 developments will occupy 140 000m2 of retail space, stretching from Paternoster Square in the west to Royal Exchange in the east.

Following an initial consultation meeting on 15 July, where the City of London set out its proposals, an ongoing public consultation is in process until 15 September. According to Melanie Charalambous, street scene manager for the City, there may be opportunities for designers to have an input into the project. Street furniture, signage, graphics and lighting are yet to be designed.

She says that this may happen, ‘at the next stage, following consultation. The whole concept is simplicity; minimal high quality. The City of London will develop public-realm enhancements, with a possibility of opening up the process.’

Ruth Duston, recently appointed as director for the Cheapside Initiative by the City of London, has commissioned designer Paul Vater of Sugar Free Design – a corporate branding and graphic design consultancy – to create a brand and identity for the project. ‘We want something that is synonymous with the area while representing 21st-century retail,’ she says.

Vater adds, ‘We were asked to make a branding proposal, so we’re looking at how the development will be promoted – the logo and font, using photographers and books. Sugar Free Design is working on three proposals, which we will be presenting to Duston at the end of September.’

The decision to attract development comes at a time when there is a downturn in both retail and property prices, but Charalambous says, ‘This is part of a long-term plan. All planning permission was given last year and the proposals the year before. We expect the market to pick up.’

It seems that the stability of shopping centre property prices may be suffering, after shopping mall giant Liberty’s reported losses of £458m over the first six months of this year. This includes its Covent Garden centre, which lost 5 per cent of its value.

Simon McGinn of the City Property Advisory Team, spoke of how Land Securities, St Martins property company and Mitsubishi were brought together by the body, having already undertaken projects in the City, to create a team that could build properties in line with the City’s vision.

Charalambous suggests that many of the public realm and transport improvements will tie in with the completion of the shopping centre One New Change in 2009 – one of the main parts of the developments – designed by architect Jean Nouvel and backed by Land Securities.

Timescale

• Planning permission for construction granted 2006

• Exhibition and public consultation 15 July 2008

• Public consultation ends 15 September 2008

• One New Change shopping centre is set for completion in 2009

• The whole development is scheduled for completion in 2012

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