Following a tortuous, late-running Eurostar-afflicted journey which saw this correspondent take the circuitous route via an enforced overnighter in Marseilles, it was time to take in this year’s MIPIM.
First up it was over to the NLA’s event on the Future of London, and to hear Croydon chief executive John Rouse give a run down on retail, offices and residential as they affect his patch. Retail, for instance, will be more about ‘experience’ in future, influenced by internet shopping, but in Croydon the real, physical movements of Hammerson and Westfield over the Whitgift will be ones to watch. Croydon wants more resi in the centre, but while London First’s Baroness Jo Valentine believes that the bigger picture is one where London is being held back by policies on aviation, immigration and tax, the chief disquiet from the audience was over CIL – how could it be implemented across boundaries?
One figure who might provide the answer to this is Sir Edward Lister, Boris’ deputy, and a man intent on banging the drum for the capital, as well as for his boss’ continuing post. All this development of the east of the City would simply not have been possible without the catalysing force of the Olympics, he said, with schemes such as The Siemens Crystal in the Royal Docks springing up as an indicator of swift regeneration. The capital, he said in a direct appeal for more investors and developers to look to London, is ‘open for business’.
That phrase also sprang from the lips of Councillor Ravi Govindia, leader of Wandsworth Council, as he talked through the prospects for what is now called simply Nine Elms, having ditched the Vauxhall and Battersea parts of the moniker. Farrell’s John Letherland took his audience through the Embassy Gardens element of the work there, an attempt to ‘stitch’ the area with public realm right down to the new US Embassy, which he hoped would be created with defensive landscape features rather than ‘razor wire’ – cue a raised eyebrow from Govindia. The vexed issue of the Battersea Power Station, we learned, will come a step closer shortly, with Knight Frank announcing that a shortlist of potential buyers will come forward inside three months.
Finally, some Lycra-clad cyclists emerged onto the London stand at its reception to hand over the (real) baton to that man Lister again after their monumental ride to Cannes in the C2C challenge this year. It turns out that 17 of their number cycled the whole route in what was dubbed a ‘vintage’ if windy year for the charity-supporting event. Newham mayor Sir Robin Wales was also in typically ebullient form, sharing the platform with Olympic Park Legacy Company chair Baroness Margaret Ford and plugging his own back yard, but not without declaring it a ‘scandal’ that despite being less than 150 days away, the Olympic rings were not allowed to be in evidence anywhere on the stand. Rules is rules.
Atmosphere/market sentiment of day one adjudged to be ‘cautiously optimistic’ by one agent I spoke to, but perhaps the London stand’s ‘sun’ terrace is a good indicator. What brave souls were there were huddling around the heaters, and scarves were proving the most useful accessory ahead of sunglasses this year. Here’s hoping things will warm up tomorrow.
David Taylor, Editor, New London Quarterly