Fourfoursixsix Architects recently hosted a stellar panel of development figures, with special guest Kirsten Henly, CEO of Kingston First Business Improvement District (BID), for a virtual roundtable to discuss the landscape for Kingston and how this might look in future, taking into account the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kirsten Henly was joined by Timothy Ridd and Daniel Welham - Fourfoursixsix; Anil Bungar - formerly Crest Nicholson Regen; Helen Rieman - Wates Partnerships; Steve Skuse - Catalyst Housing; Lara Sampson - CNM Estates; Andrew Savege - Morgan Sindall Investments.
Kirsten opened with an introduction to the Kingston First BID, highlighting its formation, democratic election process and core strategic pillars, which include delivering and creating engaging streets; leading the marketing and profiling for Kingston; providing wide-ranging business support and empowering its members to help shape its future.
Kirsten also gave an overview of the exciting new 15 year vision in partnership with Kingston Council and Arup that seeks to make the town a thriving place to spend time, work and do business, while being mindful of the medium and long term response to COVID-19.
The discussion was then opened up to group, with some of the key takeaways including:
• The need to collaborate beyond a buzzword – increased partnerships between developers (private and affordable providers), investors, the council, local groups and the public. COVID-19 has taught us we need to work together. • Kingston becoming more of a thriving local employment hub in light of COVID-19 and less of a need to travel and work in central London for some people. There has historically been a shortage of local workspace which needs to be addressed. • Balancing a need for designing flexible, mixed-use development (such as CNM Estates’ forthcoming Kingston Regal site) that creates vibrancy, with the need for much-needed housing. • However, it has to be the right housing, Kingston has suffered from some poor Permitted Development before. • Institutional retail and office investors holding the key to long term growth – what will they invest in next in the wake of declining retail? • The new planning use class changes can help breath energy into Kingston’s vacant large floorplate spaces, however we shouldn’t just ‘get something in to fill it’, quality and long term success must be key factors. • Generational impacts of COVID-19, will we see less demand for town centre apartments from young people and will this create subsequent viability questions? • Ever increasing open market resi values (£800psf+) creating viability challenges for affordable housing delivery.
It was clear from the discussion that Kingston First is an extremely well regarded BID by its circa 750 members and other stakeholders, with a proactive approach and inherent understanding of what the town centre needs on both a short and long term basis. There was a clear agreement on the need for collaboration and shared learning, with developers, urban designers and investors all playing their part in the future of Kingston’s success.