West End retail schemes face tough future, says Farrell

Central London’s West End shopping streets will face ‘the toughest challenge of their lives’ once the Westfield White City retail centre opens at the end of the month, says architect Sir Terry Farrell.

Farrell was speaking last Thursday at the launch of his new plan for the West End’s St Giles area, which runs from Tottenham Court Road Tube station to Covent Garden in the south and Berners Street in the west. Farrell adds that West End shopping areas are also under threat from the growth in online retail and the Crossrail development, which could jeopardise parts of architect Renzo Piano’s Central Saint Giles mixed-use scheme (pictured).

Piano’s development will include 109 residential and retail units, restaurants and cafés, but lies in the path of Crossrail, which is due for completion in 2017.

Farrell says, ‘We don’t want to wait for Crossrail to be built and then just see what we will be left with.’

Commissioned by Design for London, Farrell’s West End: Focus on 2012 scheme concentrates on an area he refers to as ‘the most knotty problem in London’.

The plan will see parts of St Giles High Street pedestrianised, with plazas and piazzas created in St Giles, Bloomsbury and Regent Street, in the hope of creating a better environment for retailers and shoppers.

The launch, at New London Architecture on Store Street, W1, also focused on problems and opportunities in other West End retail hubs like Regent Street and Piccadilly.

Landowner The Crown Estate is currently implementing the redevelopment of three major sites along Regent Street. Its head of Regent Street strategy and development, David Shaw, reveals that the Quadrant project will see a four- or five-star hotel and about 21 major retail units created by 2012, modelled from what was formerly the Café Royal and Regent Palace Hotel.

Shaw also says Brewer Street will be transformed into a haven for small and start-up retailers, which will be granted favourable rent agreements.

The Quadrant will incorporate Applied Information Group’s Legible London wayfinding system, currently being piloted at 19 spots across the West End.

This features maps that name shops such as Selfridges on Oxford Street as landmarks.

On Piccadilly, the Royal Academy of Arts is planning to develop retail units and a restaurant in its most recently acquired building, 6 Burlington Gardens. RA chief executive Charles Saumarez Smith describes the former Museum of Mankind as ‘vast’, and an ‘amazing opportunity’ that he hopes will be realised over the next six years.

But Smith also warns, ‘People do not enjoy Piccadilly, despite grand stores like Fortnum & Mason, the Ritz hotel and Burlington Arcade, because all you can think of is the traffic.’

New retail developments in the West End

• The Quadrant, Regent Street, owned by The Crown Estate, will contain at least 20 retail units

• Brewer Street, owned by The Crown Estate, will host small boutique stores

• 6 Burlington Gardens, owned by the Royal Academy, will house retail units, restaurant, exhibition space and a lecture theatre

• Central Saint Giles, being developed by architect Renzo Piano, will feature up to 109 residential, retail and restaurant units

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