Triumph of imagination 2: High Street 2012



Moe: Oh, everybody is going to family restaurants these days, tsk. Seems nobody wants to hang out in a dank pit no more.
Carl: You ain't thinking of getting rid of the dank, are you, Moe?
Moe: Ehh, maybe I am.
Carl: Oh, but Moe: the dank. The dank!
- The Simpsons

Brockley resident Ben is a member of the team that is leading the regeneration of some of Tower Hamlets' grottiest stretches of road. He sent us these before and after shots to illustrate what's been achieved.

The project is called High Street 2012 and is designed to spruce up their neighbourhoods ahead of the Olympics. We wrote admiringly of the scheme a while ago, and it has now begun to bear fruit. The Council website explains:

Tower Hamlets Council's High Street 2012 programme is a major regeneration project along the thoroughfare (A11/A118) that links the City of London to the Olympic Park in Stratford - the buildings are the first of around 100 to benefit from the conservation works.

Nick Smales, Head of 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games at Tower Hamlets Council said: "High Street 2012 aims to regenerate of some of the most deprived areas in Tower Hamlets against the backdrop of London 2012. This will help lift up the area, with the benefits lasting for years to come.

“The completion of the first phase of the Historic Building Conservation Scheme is an important step towards realising this vision."

The six rejuvenated buildings (64 - 68 Whitechapel High Street) have seen new shop fronts, repairs to the brickwork and pointing, new windows and the reinstatement of lost architectural features and details. Taking six months to complete, the conservation works cost approximately £460,000.

We've called this a triumph of the imagination, but actually, you don't need to be John Lasseter to see similar potential in Brockley Road and Lewisham Way.

Our high streets are the only public facility that we all use. They make a major contribution to our prosperity and quality of life and well maintained public streets can help attract new investment and even reduce crime.

And yet, too often we accept the crappy status quo as though any other reality is impossible and to hope for better is arriviste social engineering.

But you don't have to go far to see that that these criticisms are nonsense. The parades in Honor Oak and Crofton Park work. They blend the aspirational with the practical, the leisure business with the staple-seller, the restaurant with the takeaway. They've attracted good quality busnesses without alienating any part of the community.

Ladywell Village Improvement Group has made a start with its own plans to improve Ladywell. Piecemeal investment is planned for parts of Brockley Road, but progress is slow and there is no sense of a coherent plan from the Council. To hear that people who know how to make change happen live locally but apply their talents to other parts of the capital is particularly depressing.

27 comments:

Headhunter said...

Is that second image real and not a photoshopped artist's impression? If it's real that's very impressive. If only we could persuade LBC to divert some money away from its priority spending areas of social housing and crime (apparently) to actually do something to make our high streets better.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, it is a real image. And yes, fantastic isn't it.

The costs in that article suggest that for under 10 million, you could renovate high streets in pretty much every part of the borough.

Anonymous said...

Yep,theres a lot of dilapidated buildings along Lewisham Way which could look as good as the second picture.

Brockley Nick said...

Absolutely, the stretch from the old bank to the Art House could be given a lovely makeover.

Anonymous said...

I love the way they have taken the corner building back to the brickwork.

Ed said...

EXCELLENT! I bet that such investment would quickly pay for itself in a number of ways; aren't there studies that show that antisocial behaviour and crime go down when the environment is improved?

New Cross/Lewisham Way have a decidedly developing world feel and before you cry PC, I mean the built environment.

Anonymous said...

Is that vibrant shade of orange the original color of the bricks? I assumed it was a cladding of some sort.

The sad thing is that if you tried something similar in Brockley, it would get munged out and munged over due to not being "in keeping"...

Ed said...

Wrong and wrong then.

Headhunter said...

What's not "in keeping" with restoring Victorian buildings to their former glory? They haven't demolished the entire stretch and replaced it with some glassy office block.

DJ said...

"...in Brockley, it would get munged out and munged over due to not being "in keeping"..."

No. It wouldn't. Because it is 'in keeping' - it's the original building. Do quiet your tedious 'mung' moaning unless you have something sensible to add.

Danja said...

That's an amazing facelift.

£10m sounds a bit hopeful, Nick, at nearly £100k per shopfront (having said that there was a lot of work to do on those). It would do Wider Brockley, not sure about the whole borough.

Ed said...

I'd go so far as to say this is exactly what I want to see; the very best made of the vernacular architecture with uncluttered streets and pavements.

Brockley Nick said...

£10m would do large chunks of 20 major parades. 18 wards, more than one per ward. Not a complete makeover and you'd need to treat Lewisham and Catford centres separately as they're much bigger challenges.

Danja said...

Few properties need as much work as that, to be fair. I can't find costings for Southwark's Bellenden Road restoration, which is probably more analogous.

NXG's Restoration Retail was £5/6k grant per shop I think, but rather half-hearted with it.

NXG_Resident said...

20 parades for £10m? That's not half bad.

Right so if 10,000 of us donate a grand each, we can make this happen.

It wouldn't be the worst £1000 I've ever spent...

Reggie said...

looking at the details, the new cross gate scheme cost £3mill and it didnt do a huge number of shops

Brockley Jon said...

I really did think that second image was a PhotoShop job until I read the comments and looked a bit closer. Brilliant work indeed.

Here's one of many bits of Lewisham Way that I'd like to see get the treatment. Mind you, that was taken a while ago, might be some neon plastic monstrosity by now.

All this reminds me of former-BrockleyCentral regular Lee's blog: What If: Sydenham

quick brown fox said...

Very impressive transformation, would love them to have a go at some of our dingier areas.

DJ said...

And... cue the Brockley Dogging Society. Again.

Brockley Dogging Society said...

How very dare you.

Headhunter said...

However the extent of Lewisham BC's ambitions for Lewisham Way is a Big Yellow warehouse. Hurrah!

Anonymous said...

That's about the same now Jon,and right opposite the War Memorial.

Ben said...

Hi everyone - I'm leading this scheme on behalf of Tower Hamlets and our funding partners - thanks so much for all the comments.. yes would love to see this happen in Brockley/ Lewisham too. The forthcoming public realm improvements begin in Aldgate later this year, which should really compliment the buildings. For that first phase we did 6 shop-fronts, but the expensive bits are in the architectural detailing. We did come in under budget though, thanks to the hard work of our professional team. This is just the start though - another 100 buildings to do yet!

Blunderbuss said...

An amazing transformation. As much as it'll benefit the area. Isn't it also a massive boon to the private owners of these places who have let them crumble away. They now get to have 500k spent on their properties and presumably will benefit from increased rents etc. Isn't this just rewarding slum landlords?

TM said...

Such transformation has already taken place on parts of Deptford High Street, however these are only in the minority and the overall effect is thus diminished.

Still great oaks from little acorns etc etc

BrockleyBiker said...

A much better attitude than destroying and starting again as has so often happened in the past. Really impressive results.

It is shame how much architectural heritage gets lost each year to be replaced with bland, soulless constructions that are completely out of sympathy with the local area.

This sort of thing is definitely worth investing in. And those who can't see a problem with plans such as the Yellow Big Storage, or similar, should take note of making use of the assets that are already there.

Ben said...

@Blunderbuss - re. benefit to owners, its a good point and always leads to much debate. However we've found that most owners have let buildings dilapidate as they cannot afford the upkeep, so go for cheap, unsympathetic options. Restoring the buildings is, in my view, in the public's interest as benefits go way beyond the individual's shop. Chartered Surveyor valuations have shown the buildings dont increase much in value even with the works due to the ceiling prices in the area - also owners have to sign up to grant conditions which include paying back % of grant if sold, notifying if lease reassigned etc..

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