Croydon is making up for lost time. Having missed out on the last few regeneration cycles, Croydon could finally be catching up with the rest of booming London. The upcoming £1 billion regeneration investment by the Croydon Partnership, a joint venture between retail giants Westfield and Hammerson, has catalysed a sudden upheaval in the status quo of Croydon. Exciting new developments are cropping up all around the town and the changes will be drastic. From Saffron Square, Taberner House and East Croydon station, improvements are on the way. This is important because a lot more must be done beyond the effect that the Croydon Partnership will have if the growth of Croydon is to be sustainable. The town was one of the main talking points of MIPIM 2014 in Cannes this year with Boris Johnson keen to showcase the opportunities that Croydon presents at this time.
A key factor in providing lasting growth in Croydon is to make sure that there will be a suitable number of people able to keep the town profitable for the culture and service sectors. This allows for more localised footfall throughout the town over the course of an entire day, rather than long distance visitors attending the shopping centre and leaving the area in the evening when a bustling town should come alive. The influx of developers should therefore be a welcome accompaniment to the efforts of the Croydon Partnership; they are refreshing the Croydon skyline with new and exciting buildings which will help bring the much needed professionals with disposable income into the area. The likes of Saffron Square, Taberner House and the Island Development bring much needed housing into the town centre itself whilst also building a new iconic landscape for Croydon.
Beyond the simple economic side of regeneration it is important to appreciate that the character of Croydon will change too. The accusation of Croydon becoming simply a shopping centre focused ‘dormitory’ town has also been levied against the regeneration, which is why the new office spaces planned for Croydon are an important addition. With some estimates going as high as 52% vacant office space in the area, it has been posited that new offices are not required, but the point of regeneration is the rejuvenation of the entire area and many of the office blocks currently available are not equipped to incentivise businesses to use them over city-wide competition. With the use of permitted development turning many of these vacant office buildings into residential apartments, Croydon will be able to redefine its commercial and cultural identity simultaneously if done correctly. This is being seen with the Ruskin Square office block that is going through planning and looking to increase Croydon’s office capacity by as much as 20% single-handedly, along with Interchange Croydon, the refurbishment of a building previously used by BT as its headquarters.
As both the residential and commercial regeneration of Croydon happen alongside the Croydon Partnership’s plans, the future of Croydon and the legacy of this renewal can be maintained and work alongside the best interests of the residents already in the town who make it what it is today. The construction of the bridge is just the beginning of structural improvements to the area but the infrastructure projects happening are going to not only benefit those in the town centre. Fiveways and Purley Cross have always been a liability for locals and with the regeneration investment coming in they will benefit too.
Croydon should not rest on its laurels; the Croydon Partnership plans have given investors the impetus to develop Croydon, but many of these plans have yet to be confirmed. It is going to require a coordinated effort to ensure that the shot in the arm that Croydon has received will truly be the cure to the stagnation it has seen in recent decades, but things are looking positive and the potential is limitless.