Unlocking the value in retail space
Boris Johnson has already indicated that he is keen to overhaul the UK’s planning laws – perhaps easing the way for such ‘repurposed’ development – and has brought several former think tank specialists into No 10 to draft a new scheme by the end of the year. One of these, the Social Market Foundation, says that any plans to revitalise the high street with a new breed of shops is not the right solution.
Instead, in its New life for the High Street report, it suggests turning them into residential hubs, thus creating more than 800,000 homes. At a conservative estimate, it claims this represents just 5% of commercial land being released for residential use.
Of course there are challenges, planning permission aside. No one wants to feel like they are walking through a shop or office to get to their front door, so entrances and exits must be carefully thought out. Stairways, lifts, parking, security and so on are all important issues that must be considered and factored in to any plans.
People will want their residential space to be separate and discrete from any commercial operation, just as a business owner will not want to feel overlooked by private individuals.
Safety and fire regulations are also clearly vital, and any renovations must incorporate these in their designs.
It’s about creating the best design for the space, at St Georges Rd Cheltenham, we created two-storey maisonettes as it was difficult to separate the staircase, while round the corner and above the former Cath Kidston shop we designed five flats to work off a single staircase which has a separate access to the shop.
Getting the plans right will of course require investment, but if owners and landlords want to avoid the ‘dead space’ scenario and ensure a more sustainable and long-term income flow, then it makes very good sense to take the time to look at what you’ve got and rethink its potential.
This is about taking a longer-term view and exploring the best way of making sure you are getting value from your properties.
We recently completed the renovation of an office building on Gloucester’s South Gate street. Here we worked with a concrete frame building, that needed some re-engineering to replace certain elements. However, the result has been 18 flats which are now generating an increase in rental for the landlord and bringing 30+ residents into the area.