There’s been lots of interest in the City Corporation’s big new plan for adapting to whatever the post-pandemic “new normal” turns out to be. Entitled The Square Mile: Future City, it defines its aim as “creating the world’s most inclusive, innovative and sustainable business ecosystem” in order to embrace economic and social changes speeded up by Covid-19.
Promises include “a vibrant offer with exceptional retail, hospitality, culture, tourism and recreational opportunities” and “outstanding environments including collaborative, flexible workspaces, safe attractive public realm and resilient sustainable infrastructure.” This all sounds simply ripping, but what exactly does it mean?
The Financial Times has highlighted a target of adding at least 1,500 dwellings to its territory by 2030 through a mixture of developing new homes and converting existing buildings, including office space expected to remain vacant after the virus recedes due to a permanent change in workplace culture. This would significantly swell the current, small residential population of less than 8,000, many of who live in the Barbican estate.
Other empty buildings could be offered at low cost to tenants from the creative sector, with landlords encouraged to offer more flexible office space uses. The document anticipates more cultural activity and entertainment in the Square Mile. There’s a big emphasis on youth and opportunity, exemplified by the promo video.
Much of this will be vindicating music to the ears of one London Mayor candidate – Liberal Democrat Luisa Porritt, who has expressed total confidence that a big switch to more home working is permanent and been explicitly campaigning for unwanted office to space to be converted into homes. A possible drawback is that the City might have already overtaken her.
Could this be the end of the Square Mile being quiet in the evenings and silent at weekends? If that is to be a big change, it will also be sign of continuity. The City, love it or hate it, has a way of being ahead of the game.
Image shows potential housing round the Bevis Marx synagogue.
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