They presented a future strategy for the City of London with the main focus being the creation of a safe and secure city that promotes health and inclusivity. Along with improving air quality and expanding the amount of public realm through pedestrianised areas and green spaces, there is a focus on turning the City into a 7-day shopping and cultural destination through extra retail space, hotels and the introduction of a managed night time economy.
The corporation held a long public consultation exercise but were disappointed with the level of response from commercial occupiers in contrast to the high level of engagement from the city’s local residents. This may or may not shift the influence in the future of the city in favour of the relatively small number of people living there, but it certainly leaves the Corporation having to somewhat second guess the desires of existing commercial occupiers. That seems a shame given that businesses will undoubtedly be significantly affected such large-scale changes.
More concerning was the lack of any concrete plan or ability to initiate any of the City Vision. With business rates going straight to the Government, the Corporation conceded that little existed in the way of funding to either begin any projects or to induce anyone else to do so. Rather, they are looking for the right schemes to be put forward by developers.
From Colliers’ perspective it’s encouraging to see so much priority given to making the daily lives of occupiers easier, but the City Plan cannot really be seen as more than a potential blueprint for what may or may not materialise.
Public realm is a particularly complex area. While the public consultation showed strong support for urban greening and open space, it came with concerns about its feasibility and viability. With developers necessarily looking at their bottom line, incorporating less rentable space into their schemes while maximising their return is a tough call. The wellness pitch that garners premium rents is usually associated with private roof terraces, lounge areas, cafes and fitness facilities, but it’s questionable whether occupiers would pay more to simply have a publicly-accessible space next to their building.
Perhaps the City of London is relying on the sheer will and desire of developers to invest and construct in the Square Mile to drive the creativity and innovation required to deliver buildings that will, quite literally, need to appeal to everyone.