King’s Cross is situated in central London, a 67-acre site that, prior to the current face-lift taking place, was only known for high unemployment, crime, drugs, prostitution and a poor quality environment. Fortunately, since 2001, the brownfield site has been undergoing an urban regeneration project backed by Argent, one of the UK’s most respected property developers. Aiming to give King's Cross a new personality, Argent want a new area of London in which people will work, study and shop, and a place that people will call their home. However, achieving these goals is no easy task, with King's Cross being the largest mixed use regeneration project in Europe. Argent are faced with a huge challenge, one that will have a significant socioeconomic impact for London. All of the above takes major planning and consideration, along with major risk as the project is the first of its kind. But with an estimated finish date of 2020 looming ever closer, are we beginning to see signs of a promising new future for the area?
With the regeneration well underway and with significant investment already made by the public sector into transportation, King's Cross Central Limited Partnership (KCCLP), who are working with local private developers, are also keen to be a part of the project by both completing new buildings and encouraging new businesses. King's Cross is therefore aiming to offer at least 1,900 homes, 10 public areas and 26 acres of open space, aiming to accommodate 30,000 people and have up to 45,000 people a day benefiting from the new space. This is no easy task! Their plan is to have offices, retail, residential, and leisure all meet, creating a sense of place. Hopefully, as a result of these new amenities, the areas will remain lively seven days a week and late into the night.
As of today, the project is one-quarter completed and King's Cross is gaining its fresh identity fast, and the people of London seem to be in full support. The site has received a selection of awards and praise, with London’s previous mayor Boris Johnson stating that, "the transformation of King's Cross is not only beautiful but it has also triggered all sorts of regeneration, with new jobs, huge numbers of homes being built and businesses relocating here.”
However the scheme has come at a great cost: the total value, including construction, professional fees and interest costs, is around the £3 billion mark. With such a price tag attached to the development, a lot of organisation and planning on the financial side was key, especially with the recent years of economic instability, such as the recession that hit the UK in 2008. To tackle such risks, KCCLP have concentrated on assets in locations with uses which aim to be ‘economically resilient’. This demonstrates a clear long-term investment strategy, necessary for a successful regeneration.
Yet it is the £3 billion price tag that is the deciding factor for all these projects and allowing the entire regeneration to come to fruition. KCCLP have been raising working capital from the very early stages of development and plot sales. Strict money management being in place has allowed the partnership’s equity to cover a variety of projects, making a £250 million investment on infrastructure, going towards new roads, public spaces, canal side improvements and an additional £100 million to go to the construction of the University of Arts for its campus, as well as £300 million to be used on direct construction costs of offices and residential building. These are just a few of the funding methods used to bring King's Cross back to life. KCCLP have also enlisted other developers, meaning as of now more than half of the development space has been sold. In 2013 Google signed up, placing its 1 million square foot British headquarters in King's Cross, as well as the redevelopment of King’s Cross station finishing in 2013 consequently bringing £2.2 billion in private investment to the area.
This evidence shows that King's Cross is on its way to being an iconic area of London (again), a place that will be on every tourist list but also a home and space of work for thousands. With the finishing touches taking place in the coming years, as the completion date in 2020 approaches, it will be interesting to see how well the project survives in the already extremely competitive and unforgiving city of London, upon taking this ‘long-term approach’ that KCCLP and Argent have bravely adopted.
Original Illustration by Alex Nutman