Judges at the Royal Institute of British Architects have shortlisted Croydon Council’s improvement of South End in their new annual awards scheme.
The MacEwen Awards recognise and acknowledge building projects that have been delivered to benefit the whole community, including local people and businesses.
The judging panel praised the £2.8million scheme, which included footpath widening, building frontage upgrades, new public spaces and economic help for businesses. They were impressed with how it had boosted the economic future of South End and stated that it had a ‘lively and successful future ahead.’
Work on South End and Selsdon Road was carried out as part of the wider £50m Connected Croydon programme which has been underway across the town centre for several years. Footways have been widened, road junctions have been improved, 47 shop fronts have been upgraded and the area has been made cleaner, greener and more accessible.
As a result the number of empty shop units has already fallen dramatically, from a 16% vacancy rate to only 5% – significantly below the national average. The council has issued more trading licenses for al fresco dining on the widened pavements throughout the restaurant quarter, and several property owners have begun to invest their own money refurbishing their shops.
One of the judges – award-winning architect Amanda Levete, said: “This project shows how on a small budget very small interventions can make a difference – that is giving a little attention and respect to the everyday, and understanding that adding a nicely positioned bench, for example, can totally change the way people interact on the street…suddenly it becomes a place where you might want to loiter rather than hurry along.”
The scheme was completed at the end of 2015 with the help of urban architects, We Made That, landscape practice, Hassell, engineers, Buro Happold, and graphic designers, Objectif.
The design team listened to residents of all ages, business owners, community groups in coming up with plans. They worked with construction students at Croydon College to transform a vacant unity into an ‘ideas shop’ for a month at the start of the project.
“It’s brilliant to receive this news and to hear the judges’ comments about how successful this project has already been.
“Anyone walking through Croydon’s restaurant quarter recently will have seen the difference for themselves. The fact that new businesses have opened and existing ones are investing their own money in making even more improvements is a testament to how this work has genuinely changed people’s lives for the better.”
Councillor Alison Butler, deputy leader and cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning