London’s West End, the ultimate UK town centre and home to hundreds of impressive landmarks and just 65,000 residents, was hit by the pandemic harder than other parts of the capital. But the famous central London area is not just responding to the urgent demands of coronavirus-driven economic rewiring. Since before the pandemic, a set of complex challenges has been calling for a strategic regeneration programme, and now the West End is gearing up for what could be its most significant transformation since the post-war mass rebuilding. Accommodating new urban mobility and regulations, bringing visitors back and persuading them to stay, adopting new landlord-tenant partnership models, reimagining public realm – all these and many other themes will be central to the area’s transformation for years to come.
This article discusses how a thoughtful redevelopment of some of the West End’s best-known heritage assets will be supporting its economic and social recovery. It also looks at how some of the most high-profile of the already announced projects will be reanimating this glamorous area.
Reimagining the familiar for the West End’s green recovery
Since its emergence as a new city hub after the Great Fire of London in the mid-17th century, the West End has been the beating heart of London. In our era, a unique combination of retail, culture and entertainment along with outstanding architectural heritage make the West End a unique urban eco-system.
And it might be the area’s famous historical assets that can help it out of the recession trap and accelerate the social and economic reset. At least three of its important Georgian garden squares – Hanover Square, Cavendish Square and Grosvenor Square – are set for major makeovers, and a planning application to transform South Molton Triangle into a vibrant mixed-use quarter was submitted in early summer 2020. Mayfair’s landmarks are hardly undiscovered places, but there is tremendous and largely untapped potential to transform them into much more successful and vibrant places with a strong sustainability and community agenda while enhancing their historic appeal.