If you build it, will they come? The £8 billion regeneration of Brent Cross

From the platform of the newly opened Brent Cross West station, London’s first new mainline station in a decade, Brent Cross Town looks like a porcupine of cranes and half-finished buildings.

According to the plans, in fifteen years’ time the same platform will overlook a beautiful new neighborhood with homes for 45,000 people; new streets, cafes and shops; three rebuilt schools and several new office buildings, as well as 50 hectares of parkland and playing fields.

Tom Goodall, CEO of developer Related Argent, describes the £8 billion Brent Cross Town project as “one of the biggest urban regeneration opportunities London has this decade”.

Located at the foot of the M1 motorway and across London’s Northern Ring Road from Brent Cross – Britain’s first out-of-town shopping center – the 180-acre site lies between a London Underground stop to the east and the new train station of £419 million. to the west.

The new “park city” is the next big bet from Related Argent, best known in Britain for its decades-long transformation of the railway area north of London’s King’s Cross Station into a vibrant district of restaurants, luxury shops, flats and public space stretched along the canal.

The project, a joint venture with Barnet Council, is a rare example of a massive redevelopment on a previously used urban ‘brownfield’ site, as politicians of all stripes and planning experts are trying to encourage to solve the UK’s housing shortage.

The scheme has been made possible in part by hundreds of millions of pounds of public funding from Homes England and the Department for Leveling Up, which will go towards the train station, land and infrastructure.

Brent Cross West station
The newly opened Brent Cross West railway station ©John Sturrock

Such plans – long hampered by a lack of viable urban sites – have become even more difficult to get off the ground in recent years due to planning and funding constraints, and increasingly fraught political disputes over whether so-called regeneration projects amount to ‘gentrification’ and provides little benefit to the local population.

Since King’s Cross, several major development projects in London have been derailed by local opposition. As with King’s Cross, Related Argent has tried to prove its good intentions by turning the first building on the estate into a social housing block, replacing some aging towers and sprucing up the public park.

After decades of planning and false starts, construction began in 2020, five years after Argent won the mandate. This year, approximately 130 social homes will be ready for occupancy. About 300 apartments should also be ready by 2024, of which 60 percent have already been sold. By 2025, approximately 550 rental apartments will be available. In addition, there will be 600 student homes, sold to student housing group Fusion.

The project has attracted a range of financial backers, including Invesco, which has invested in around 800 owner-occupied and rental properties, as well as loans from LaSalle and NatWest. This week, the property investment arm of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation (NTT) – one of Japan’s largest companies – committed to investing £120 million in rental blocks.

The buildings have a total of 1,500 beds, which Related Argent hopes will be enough to seed a new community. “How do you create a credible city? You bring as many different demographics as possible,” Goodall said. The group also built student housing in King’s Cross early on, as they “import vibrancy overnight”, he added.

Even more intimidating is the 3 million square feet of what will be new offices, at a time when demand – especially in remote locations – has been dampened by the rise of flexible working. The first building, which should be ready in 2026, is half pre-let to Sheffield Hallam University.

“We are not afraid to create a new office destination,” said Goodall. “It’s ten minutes away [from King’s Cross] and half the price.”

The Brent Cross site is three times the size of King’s Cross and although it is only a 12 minute train ride from St Pancras, it is miles from central London, meaning it could be a challenge due to its more remote location when setting up a community.

‘Twenty years ago the same question was asked about King’s Cross. People said King’s Cross can’t work. It’s not central enough. It’s not the city or the West End,” Goodall said.

Roger Madelin, former CEO of Argent, who has since joined British Land to co-lead the development of Canada Water, said he was initially attracted to Brent Cross by the size of the site, the support of the council and the new rail connections. The project moved forward after the land south of the ring road was separated from the Brent Cross shopping center plans.

“The success of development and [its] attraction. . . has always had to do with transport. I think the Romans knew that,” Madelin said. “[Brent Cross Town has] good access but it doesn’t have that 360 degree access. The mix of uses will be more residentially focused than a central urban location such as King’s Cross or Canada Water,” he said.

Related Argent is still the developer and manager of King’s Cross, which has almost completed its last building after more than 15 years of construction. The private British developer was formed by a combination of British Argent with US-based Related, known for the development of Hudson Yards, a $25 billion project that is converting hectares of industrial hinterland in Manhattan into a sprawling complex of luxury houses, offices and luxury apartments. stores.

An aerial view of Brent Cross
An aerial view of Brent Cross © Simon Hazelgrove

Goodall, a former architect, joined Argent in 2012 and eventually led the King’s Cross housing development. In May he became CEO of the combined group.

Brent Cross is designed to be even greener than previous projects. At King’s Cross, pipes carry water at 95 degrees and 6 degrees around the estate for heating and cooling. Brent Cross Town will have a similar but more advanced electric heating system, which is being developed in collaboration with Vattenfall, the Swedish state energy company.

Related Argent CEO Tom Goodall
Related Argent CEO Tom Goodall: ‘How do you create a credible city? You bring as many different demographic groups as possible’ ©John Sturrock

But ultimately, Goodall believes the key to the new city isn’t just the buildings and infrastructure. At King’s Cross, Related Argent organized 190 events last year as part of its efforts to continue to attract people to the district. The main attraction in Brent Cross Town will be a huge park, almost the size of the entire King’s Cross development, with extensive sports and games facilities.

“No one goes to the theater to stare at the stage and say, ‘what a beautiful theater,’” Goodall said. “We have to put on a damn good show.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *