They want to spend £1,400,000,000 demolishing and rebuilding much of the town centre, to build 1,000 “luxury apartments”, a car park for eager shoppers with 3,000 bays, and they are still promising 5,000 jobs (though they remain vague about exactly what kind of jobs these might be). But the developers behind the Croydon Partnership still can’t come up with a name for their long-promised supermall.
Because of the slightly involved nature of the partnership between shopping centre rivals Hammerson and Westfield, it has been confirmed that they won’t be able to call it “Westfield”.
Which is something that could undermine the longer term prospects of the gargantuan scheme, since one of the great advantages of the redevelopment when it was first sold to Croydon by Boris Johnson and his sarf London bestie, gaffe-prone Gavin Barwell, was the pulling power of the Westfield brand.
In truth, this has been an issue ever since 2013, when Johnson came to Croydon to announce the shot-gun marriage of covenience to short-circuit a Mexican stand-off over the property ownership between the developers. Which is why we have generously and steadfastly offered “Hammersfield” as an appropriate, over-sized, bastardised moniker.
And perhaps the developers’ highly paid “creatives” aren’t too worried, since they still have a long time to ponder their options, with the initial 2017 opening date having been set back repeatedly and is now reckoned to be, at the most optimistic, still more than four years away.
The Mall With No Name is one of a number of important snags that are gradually coming to light since the Croydon Partnership revealed their revised and enlarged plans for the town centre last month.
The developers confirmed at a planning committee meeting last week, “Now there is a 50:50 partnership, we can’t call it the Westfield Centre.” They did seem to suggest that the centre’s title would include the word “Croydon” when they were pressed on the matter by the planning committee chair, Paul Scott.
Hammersfield have appointed an east London-based architects practice, Spacehub, to take charge of designing how the public areas of North End and George Street will look. Spacehub’s previous work includes The Goodsyard at Shoreditch (for Hammerson) and they have also worked on Cairo Place, next to Reeve’s Corner (for Guildhouse, one of the other big players in central Croydon).
Having been given the Hammersfield gig, Spacehub have made the sort of vacuous, hipster commentary that followers of this kind of thing have come to know and loathe:
“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to transform the public realm in a key part of Croydon.”
“The design principles are based on the prioritisation of pedestrians and cyclists and a rationalisation of the existing public realm.” Yes, their plans include cycling, despite efforts being made elsewhere to have cyclists banned from using North End.
“Key elements include the humanising of Wellesley Road…”.
Despite the whole project having been granted planning permission once, it is fair to say that Spacehub’s plans for the public areas of central Croydon are, at present, a little sketchy…
The sketchiness of the architects’ work reflects the lack of firm detail about so much of the revised plans, despite Hammersfield having been working on this already for more than three years, going through one planning process and a Compulsory Purchase Order tribunal, and spending £300 million.
There is to be a public exhibition to display the far-from-complete plans in the Whitgift Centre next week, from May 12 to May 15, while the developers are expected in front of the planning committee again in June.
Perhaps by then they will have filled in some of the many blanks in their painting-by-numbers plans?
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