Urban Space Management (USM) yesterday submitted a proposal for a 90-year lease on London’s Smithfield General Market based on a business model that will bring the Victorian buildings back into use without the need for demolition.
The developer’s proposal challenges the current plan put forward by Henderson Global Investment, which proposes to replace the the General Market, Fish Market and Red House Cold Store with multi storey offices, retaining only three of the four Victorian street frontages.
Balancing financial and social value
In his letter to the Corporation of London, USM Founding Director Eric Reynolds writes:
“The plan as we propose offers financial value to the Corporation and a social value to those who live work and visit London.
“We are willing to discuss a number of legal frameworks for our investment in the site but, for the purposes of clarity have based this initial offer to the City upon the basis of a 90 year lease and annual, upward-only ground rent of £700,000 which is subject to upward only performance related reviews every 5 years.
“No demolition is required, all of the existing five entrances into the site would be retained, improved and opened to provide a public space to be enjoyed by local residents, office workers, shoppers and tourists.”
Reynolds, who highlighted USM’s 40 years experience of working with heritage assets, said he was confident that it could fund and deliver the proposal.
He continues: “The creative mix of cultural, retail, event, and workspace would catalyse the local economy, providing an unrivalled opportunity for established and start up enterprises and would create thousands of new, long term jobs. We maintain that a full retention scheme is an extremely attractive and sustainable proposition.”
Killing the facade
With Spitalfield’s London Fruit and Wool Exchange building likely to follow the fate of Middlesex Hospital, after English Heritage refused to save the iconic 1920s building from demolition, adoption of USM’s approach would certainly be shot in the arm for beleaguered campaigners.
In the case of both the Exchange and the Hospital developers have so sought to pin their heritage credentials on a facade or two that might remind people of what stood before the steel and glass was erected.
Hopefully USM’s proposal, if adopted, might provide a viable and sustainable alternative model to the current raft of destructive developments that bit-by-bit making London’s landscape a bland shadow of itself.