Reversing the fortunes of a London High Street | HASSELL

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The Croydon South End High Street regeneration was the first in a programme of projects being delivered by the London Borough of Croydon to renew and enhance key high streets in the area.

As one of the areas significantly impacted by the civic disorder in 2011, Croydon’s South End High Street was suffering from a vacancy rate almost double the nation’s average. Pedestrians gave way to busy traffic and the shop fronts, streetscapes and public spaces were in desperate need of repair.

The Council wanted to re-establish the high street as a place of enterprise and community life. It wanted to improve movement and transport networks along the street to prioritise people over cars and rebuild a sense of civic pride in the heritage and character of the borough.

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In response to the Council’s vision, HASSELL planned to stitch together the streets, squares and open spaces of Croydon to create welcoming, vibrant and safe public places that people wanted to be part of. More people using the street would boost the number of people shopping locally and using local services, increase natural surveillance, and help to attract new businesses to the area.

Collaboration connects people with the street
As the lead consultant on the project, the first step for HASSELL was to ask the people of Croydon what they wanted from their high street. Working with design practice We Made That, a vacant property was transformed into ‘The Ideas Shop’ for community consultation. Over the course of a month, residents of all ages, business owners, community groups and visitors stopped in to share their vision for the street, and a series of site walks helped reveal the history of the area.

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People increasingly want to feel connected as communities, and the high street provides the perfect forum for this to happen, says Jon Hazelwood, Principal at HASSELL.

“In Croydon, there was genuine engagement with the community about the project from the outset, asking them what they wanted out of their high street. The community knows more about its history than we do, so it’s important to listen to their stories to understand what’s important about a place and what should be invested in. This is vital to the creation of a used and loved high street,” said Hazelwood.

The final concept for the Croydon South End addresses many of the challenges and aspirations raised by the community through consultation.

An evolving environment generates enticing experiences
The design team worked in partnership with Council, the local community and collaborators to identify and promote increased uses for Croydon South End High Street and create an environment more conducive to strolling, shopping and ‘grazing’ a wider variety of offerings.

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We Made That led improvements to tired shop fronts, while HASSELL reinvigorated the public realm and focused on removing clutter from the street to put the heritage of local buildings back on show. New trees now soften the gathering areas and a variety of public art and graphics along the street have brought a splash of colour and life to walls and windows.

The design team worked with engineers Buro Happold to coordinate the extensive traffic and transport changes that were needed to narrow the width of the road and expand the footpath, making room for a more pedestrian friendly environment. And new cycle facilities have been added.

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The team also looked beyond the physical elements of the street to find new ways it could be activated. Young people from Croydon’s Turnaround Centre created artwork for vacant shops and We Made That led a program to create a ‘Meanwhile Tool Kit’ to bring vacant shops back to life through a variety of pop-up uses.

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A vibrant, successful and self-sustaining street
The result has been an overwhelming success, with shop vacancies reducing from 25% to just 5% by the time the project was completed. There have also been an increased number of successful licence and planning applications for restaurants to extend their custom to include alfresco dining to make the most of the enhanced public realm.

Croydon Council has received positive feedback from local businesses and residents who feel a greater sense of pride in their high street.

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Croydon South End High Street
Location | Croydon, United Kingdom
Landscape Architect | HASSELL
Client | London Borough of Croydon
Project partners Project Lead, Project Manager, Landscape Architect: HASSELL; Architect: We Made That; Engineer: Buro Happold; Graphics: Objectif
Photography | Jakob Spriestersbach, Jim Stephenson
Site Plan/Drawings | HASSELL

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