Transformational placemaking

Stuart Rogers
Mixed-use placemaking has come alive in the North West, demonstrating the power of city-wide collaboration as a force for change.

This is an extraordinary time for the cities of north-west England. We’re seeing the initiation and ongoing progress of some exceptional placemaking projects which put community, identity and connectivity at the heart of urban regeneration.

Today’s emphasis is on the development’s added value, its ability to be part of a community rather than operating in isolation

It’s about the whole place being more important than any one building. The social impacts should ripple outwards beyond the development’s immediate boundary and into the surrounding communities, promoting inclusion, inspiring future generations and closing economic gaps.

The route to success relies on collaboration and mutual understanding between the private and public sectors, their partners and advocates. There may be contested ground, requiring skilled facilitation, exploration and negotiation, to bring all perspectives to the table. However the key to best practice placemaking is to engage with local communities and inspire them to become active stakeholders. To contribute to shaping a space into somewhere people not only want to live, work and play, but also a place where they want to stay.

Whether a placemaking project comprises new build, existing buildings or both, today’s approach typically seeks to connect the site to its heritage context—this demands an understanding of the locality’s specific nuances of place, people and potential.

Today’s emphasis is on the development’s added value, its ability to be part of a community rather than operating in isolation

Private sector input is essential if our cities are to be revitalised, celebrated, and made fit for the future. But while central and local governments clearly want the economic stimulation that private sector involvement brings, they need to work at creating a receptive environment where key investment sites can flourish, allowing investors and developers to release maximum social and economic value.

For developers and funders, this is a time of opportunity but also one of challenge. Centre for Cities have identified the following elements as the most highly valued by prospective city investors and developers: a strong city economy with growth potential; good transport connections; pro-investment city leadership, and a focus on delivery—including a responsive, pro-investment planning system, a team with access to investment expertise, and willingness to step in where necessary to facilitate investment.

Increasingly developers and investors have a genuine desire to create authentic destinations that work for all stakeholders. Long-term forecasting and decision making are not easy, however, and schemes need to be planned with flexibility and future-proofing in mind. Again, collaborative working is key, and we’re seeing some excellent examples in the North West, where developers, local authorities, transport partners and community stakeholders have come together to create safe, cohesive environments. In many cases these address the problems of disused and neglected areas.

Faithful+Gould is working on some fantastic projects in the North West, supporting some truly visionary plans. In Manchester, the Our Manchester strategy sets a long-term vision for the future of a city which already has some exciting projects unfolding. The regeneration of Mayfield, alongside the proposed Network Rail Northern Hub scheme and HS2 station, will create a new £850m mixed-use community, transforming a long-neglected area into a high-quality urban neighbourhood. The proposals for Manchester's first public park, for more than 90 years is an important part of these plans.

Mayfield has successfully implemented meaningful meanwhile use at the site. This is becoming a new element of placemaking best practice—a shift towards community-connected worthwhile use that delivers social and economic value authentic to the area, and avoids an inappropriate solely commercial emphasis.

We are engaged on Airport City Manchester, one of the first organisations to sign up as a member of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership Programme, and the first major UK infrastructure project to attract Chinese equity investment. The £35m infrastructure investment by the joint venture partners will act as the catalyst for occupier interest, unlocking the site’s development plots.

Placemaking is not all about new build, as demonstrated by Manchester’s Our Town Hall project, where we are providing cost management and contract administration services. The project not only repairs, restores and improves access to the iconic 19th century building itself, but also focuses on utilisation, aspirational planning, and future-proofing. It explores the potential for the adjacent Albert Square, and considers how this historically and culturally significant public realm can best meet the needs of the local community.

Further afield, Knowledge Quarter (KQ) Liverpool is becoming home to some of the world’s most influential players in science, health, technology, culture and education. Our team is currently appointed on the regeneration of Copperas Hill, which creates a new green, accessible, environment between the wider KQ and the rest of the city centre. Similarly we are working with the Wirral Waters masterplan stakeholders, to transform the Left Bank of the River Mersey into sustainable mixed-use neighbourhoods.

At Faithful+Gould, much of our work begins with strategic masterplanning advice. We support developers with the challenge of putting together an inspired, competitive and winning bid.

Manchester and Liverpool have led the way, and are reaping the benefits not only in their city centres but in their surrounding towns and neighbourhoods too. The placemaking approach also continues to reach other cities in the north of England, such as Leeds, Sheffield and Nottingham. A live example from our own portfolio includes the Leeds Integrated Station Masterplan, where we are working alongside our parent company Atkins ,

At Faithful+Gould, much of our work begins with strategic masterplanning advice. We support developers with the challenge of putting together an inspired, competitive and winning bid. Typically we’ll guide our client through the development appraisal process, evaluating plot options and considering usage mix and curation.

We draw on a detailed understanding of our local cities, where our resident teams typically know and understand the potential, and are familiar with local aspirations, policymaking and available sites. We advise on creating joint venture teams, and on maximising the construction market opportunities. We create procurement strategies that work in the current market, with a future-proofing mind-set.

We’re passionate about placemaking and ready to support all stakeholders, ensuring that visions translate into cost-effective and achievable realities.

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