Is the Olympics masterplan the last hurrah for Altman and Ford’s family vision for east London?

Andrew Altman, the outgoing chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, will no doubt be feeling personally vindicated today.

The US regeneration and masterplanning expert and former deputy mayor of Philadelphia,  last night saw his plans for the redevelopment of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford after the 2012 Games rubberstamped by the Corporation’s old sparring partner the Olympic Delivery Authority.

It was never in doubt you might think. Sources close to the Development Corporation however suggest there was some concern that the ODA may defer the decision until after the Games and Altman’s impending departure and who knows what would have happened then?

At present there is a clear changing of the guard at the Corporation as Mayor Boris Johnson stamps his personality on the vehicle which he took full control of in April. Altman’s departure, announced earlier this month, followed relatively soon on from that of chair Baroness Ford.

Dave Hill of the Guardian has written interestingly on the possible reasons for all of this here.

My sense is that Hill is right that things might have been different for Altman if the sale of the Olympic Stadium had run more smoothly. Successful politicians tend to be good at locating fall guys for high-profile embarrassments and it isn’t hard to see a scenario where the blame for the delay in locating an anchor for the biggest potential white element at the Park shifts to the likes of Ford and Altman while Johnson and his new chair Daniel Moylan and incoming chief executive are able to do the finger pointing.

It would also clearly be odd if, as is increasingly likely, Altman and Ford are gone before an anchor tenant for the other key venue – the International Broadcast and Press Centre  – is chosen. The Corporation says the process is still running to plan and a decision between the two remaining bidders – the iCity and the UK Fashion hub – is imminent. But stories like this one in the Financial Times last week suggesting that the new brooms are taking a serious look again at the whole process does at least raise doubts about the Corporation’s current liking for its two shortlisted bidders

Putting cynicism to one side, however, perhaps Altman, whose skills after all were always seen to lie principally in masterplanning, feels he has done what he set out to do.

The biggest impact Altman and Ford have had on the plans for the park were clearly the ideological shift away from high-rise commuter belt development towards the creation of a family neighbourhood.

The original masterplan for the Olympic Park, drawn up by architects EDAW, KCAP and Allies & Morrison in 2008-2009 for the London Development Agency, envisaged between 10,000 and 12,000 homes in six village developments at the park – just one of which would provide low-rise family homes.

Ford and Altman revised the plans to propose 8,000 principally family houses in lower-density neighbourhoods.

This has subsequently been scaled back to 6,800 homes and at last this has been formally rubberstamped.

The masterplan’s focus on trying to create a community that appeals to families has in fact been almost universally endorsed, particularly by Johnson who continues to describe the project as London’s “most important” regeneration scheme.

For Stratford it is to be hoped that the shift in power at the Legacy Corporation does not also enable the Body to shift away from this aspect of the proposals.


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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