Crucial week for Olympics regeneration passes by surprisingly well

For all those interested in the benefits the Olympics brings to east London regeneration wise there has been crucial progress on a series of fronts this week.

Today the Olympic Park Legacy Company – as it for a while still be known – announced the three parties that have made its shortlist for the 1m sq ft press and broadcast centre, the key job creating venue at the 500-acre park.

There were no surprises on the shortlist but all in all the OPLC is surely pleased with the list – its “toughest nut to crack” as Baroness Ford once pithily described it. All three parties in the mix appear genuine contenders with good stories to tell about job creation for Hackney Wick and the local economy.

The parties are: UK Fashion Hub, Oxylane Group and iCITY, all of whom share, the OPLC said,  its vision to create a “thriving commercial district on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park that will generate several thousand job and training opportunities in the process”.

Importantly, all three organisations are vying to take up long leases for the whole of both buildings which in total offer around 1m sq ft of commercial space.

The Legacy Company aims to appoint the tenant this summer with the buildings available for fit out and opening from spring 2013.

The most exciting sounding is surely the UK Fashion Hub, a dedicated centre that will combine the fashion and textile manufacturing sectors to create a destination for wholesalers, buyers and the creative industries. Headed by Resolution and anchored by Brandboxx and Workspace Group, the bid involves the Broadcast Centre becoming a fashion centre with offices, an incubator, manufacturing and creative uses. The Press Centre would become a fashion college, a fashion e-tailing centre and a media centre.

I think it must have the edge just now, given the names involved and in particular the backing of Resolution of Workspace.

The other bids though are the other two that have always seemed credible. Oxylane Group is a sports orientated mixed-use offer in partnership with Loughborough University. The Broadcast Centre would become ‘Oxylane Village’ offering leisure, events space, research and education and retail including a Decathlon store. The Press Centre would be used as office space and a technology centre.

Finally, initial suspicion that the third bid was essentially a giant data centre with little job creation prospects appears to be helpfully off the mark. iCITY is an ‘Innovation City’ anchored by Infinity with the Broadcast Centre accommodating a cloud computing centre, research labs, post production, graphic designers and digital education. The Press Centre would become an innovation and research centre with links to higher education that would showcase British technology. It certainly has the lead in terms of how it fits in with the government’s touted hopes for the area to help with the creation of a hi-tech bleeding edge work hub stretching all the way down to the Old Street roundabout.

Of perhaps more significance this week was the news that the London Assembly have voted unanimously in favour of the creation of a Mayoral Development Corporation to take over control of a series of key sites in east London including the Olympic Park. I am sure Boris could have steamrollered over the Assembly if it had of vetoed the proposals but still it was an important thumbs up for the proposals.

Its particularly important because a number of other key opportunity areas in London will be watching how the all-powerful MDC – which vitally will have planning powers overriding the Boroughs for the sites – gets on. If the ensuing months are not fraught with angry run-ins with councils and local opposition groups but instead the area flourishes, expect all sorts of other MDCs to come forward, the first of which will surely be one for that other complex, vast opportunity – Battersea, Vauxhall and Nine Elms.

The key decision, which enables mayor Boris Johnson to create his first development corporation in London, was made on Tuesday afternoon following assembly member questions to the Mayor, his Chief of Staff Sir Edward Lister and GLA Director of London 2012 Coordination Neale Coleman about the proposals.

The Localism Act 2011 provides that the Mayor may designate any area of land in Greater London as a mayoral development area. Importantly a mayoral development area passes over planning powers for the included sites from the affected Boroughs to the mayor. Today’s vote centred on a development area comprising:

• The core Olympic Park, comprising land owned by Olympic Park Legacy Company and the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, including Eton Manor

• The Olympic Village and associated development sites owned by London & Continental Railways Ltd and (until recently) the Olympic Delivery Authority

• The Stratford City development site, including the Westfield Shopping Centre and Chobham Farm

• Hackney Wick and Fish Island

• Bromley-by-Bow North (with a southern boundary at the District Line)

• Pudding Mill Lane and Sugarhouse Lane

• Three Mills and Mill Meads

• Carpenters Estate

The Assembly voted in favour of the plans after receiving assurances on several points.

Firstly it has called for a time frame to be set so that the corporation is reviewed in five or 10 years’ time. It also sought guarantees on transparency in particular that community groups would be able to present their feelings to the MDC. The mayor said that while the corporation would initially be taking on all planning responsibility in future the MDC may start handing back smaller decisions to local authorities.

The Mayor’s London Plan identifies the Olympic Park and surrounding area as ‘London’s single most important regeneration project for the next 25 years’.

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About Paul Norman's Olympics blog

News Editor of CoStar News, a commercial property news service. Regular blogger on the London 2012 Olympics and what it means for property and the the regeneration of East London
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