Edward Acres, managing director at Nottingham-based architectural practice, Acres Architects, issued a warning about the future of UK city centres last week as he addressed an audience at The Housing and Build to Rent Conference.
He called on councils, investors and developers to work together to recognise that the anthropology of our town and city centres have changed, suggesting city centre spaces could become disused without such collaboration. He said: “The death of the city centre is a very real possibility unless developers and investors recognise the inevitable shift towards spaces of cultural understanding and enjoyment”.
While speaking at the online conference attended by senior professionals and key decision makers in the housing, private rental and Build to Rent sectors, Acres added: “From analysis of the markets, it is clear that we are about to experience an economic boom, akin to that seen in the roaring twenties. There seems to be much emphasis on shops closing down, and a real worry about what lies ahead for our town and city centre spaces, but I feel that we will make a move towards Roman culture, where business will be done on the streets. City centres should become destinations for coffee, culture, museums and enjoyment.”
He added: “Many years ago, twenty-somethings would buy apartments in the city, close to the nightlife, and the suburbs were seen as desirable for rearing your children, settling down and moving on to that next stage of your life. There has been a shift in recent years and Build to Rent trends are seeing more and more developers making use of disused buildings and remodelling them into much needed housing.”
Acres’ comments come following a recent announcement by retail giant John Lewis that it is to move into the residential property market, and has set its sights on building 10,000 homes for rental in the coming years.
The department store chain revealed plans to use sites in its existing property portfolio to deliver 7,000 of that initial total in a bid to address the national housing shortage whilst supporting local communities.