The coronavirus pandemic has had an unprecedented and significant effect on all our lives both personal and professional. The move away from the high street to online retail and from the office to working from home has called into question the future of the City of London post the pandemic. So what is the future of the City and what can developers do to help rescue it? Following British Land obtaining planning permission for a 38-storey office block and a 20-storey development as part of its £1.5 billion redevelopment of Broadgate, we identify 4 key changes which are likely to see us enter a new era for redevelopment in the City:
- 1. Flexible working office space
Following a year of working from home, or hybrid working, it is unlikely that work will ever be the same again. Developers therefore need to adapt when it comes to creating office space. The key is to create a collaborative and open environment where workers want to go. Given that workers can work independently at home the focus of office space should be to create a space for collaboration, training and culture - a place for a company to bring its people together. The ongoing investment by British Land into flexible office space shows that offices do have a role to play, albeit that the role is a slightly different one.
- 2. Encouraging walking and cycling
The pandemic has been described by Boris Johnson as a "once in a lifetime" opportunity to create a shift in attitudes and to get more people choosing to walk or cycle as part of their daily routine. Developers will therefore be expected to create more space for people to do this and to re-enliven areas through better pedestrian connectivity. British Land is encouraging walking and cycling at Broadgate by creating the largest pedestrianised neighbourhood in central London together with 1,500 new bike parking spaces and an integrated cycle workshop.
- 3. Providing big open spaces
The pandemic has highlighted the value and importance of big open spaces for people's physical and mental wellbeing, with even the smallest patches of green becoming a lifeline to those without a space of their own. When considering whether to work or live somewhere, people are more likely than ever to consider what open spaces are available around them. Developers will therefore need to do more to improve access to well-designed open spaces. British Land's development at Broadgate will provide four attractive public squares for workers and visitors to relax and be entertained.
Environmental Social Governance is more important than ever and should be a key consideration for any redevelopment with an ever increasing demand for properties which are committed to sustainable practices. British Land is continuing to demonstrate its commitment to sustainability by promising a net-zero carbon construction and operation and aiming for a BREEAM Outstanding sustainability rating. British Land also has Social Governance "covered" by providing a dedicated "Open Learning Hub" for the local community and supporting 400+ East London jobseekers.
When the country hopefully emerges from lockdown on 21 July 2021, we will be returning to a very different City to the one we left on 23 March 2020. This is a new era for redevelopment in the City and developers will either need to follow British's Land's lead and embrace this or risk being left behind.