THE ROLE OF HOSPITALITY IN THE REGENERATION OF URBAN AREAS:
Organic regeneration of urban areas often starts with creative people moving into redundant buildings and creating a new and vibrant community. Artists are often the first to find these areas and establish themselves, followed by galleries, hipsters, designers, coffee shops, pop-up bars and restaurants and eventually, property speculators and developers! Typically, the property in these areas is rarely in single ownership so there is no opportunity for big developers or landlords to exert ultimate control.
However, in big cities, much of the redevelopment is not so natural and organic. London for example, is dominated by large landed estates such as The Crown, Grosvenor, and Cadogan who compete with property companies like Capital & Counties in Covent Garden and Shaftesbury whose estates include Carnaby, Seven Dials and Berwick Street. Other large areas of land are often controlled by local authorities, city councils and railways. As a result, the regeneration of areas of such control can sometimes feel forced or fake – this is where the role of the independent hospitality operator can be vital to a development’s success and credibility.
If an urban area undergoes this kind of strategic landlord regeneration, it is usually an area which is run-down, forgotten, abandoned or at worst, has become a no-go area. Humanising these areas means creating an environment people want to visit and more importantly stay, dwell-in, enjoy and value. Whether it is a large scale urban area or a single building, the best examples of regeneration include good public spaces, promote accessibility, celebrate the heritage and architecture, and show commitment to long-term success.
This is now commonly referred to as ‘place-making’ and it is generally accepted that a vibrant and wide mix of uses is essential. Hospitality is one of the most important uses and often is essential to successful regeneration – providing animation to public spaces, creating an early destination and an amenity to the long-term community whether it be residents and/or workers as well as visitors.
Independent hospitality operators provide a point of difference and a reason to visit an area or development. This can be before, during the regeneration or once the development is completed. Therefore, whether the operator is a street-food stall, a start-up business or a well-established local indie or say a named chef, each has a role to play in the regeneration of that area.
Developments may offer businesses short-term opportunities during the processes of site assembly including obtaining vacant possession and planning permission which can often take many years. These opportunities range from pop-up bar/restaurants to street-food markets. This can lead to semi-permanent business opportunities for the hospitality sector. A successful operation that becomes part of the fabric of an estate or urban area may even give the developer the comfort to take more time before implementing their permanent plans.
Successful regeneration of an urban area often starts with public spaces and making these immediately and continually accessible during the construction process. The best way to activate public spaces is with hospitality whether it be a coffee cart, temporary theatre or markets and street-food.
So, with these opportunities in mind, what makes hospitality businesses attractive to developers? Landlords are always looking for the newest trends, a first-of-a-kind or simply, the next best thing. With big cities competing for leisure and tourism with other global locations, it is important the landlord can set their property or estate apart from others. This attracts visitors and keeps locations fresh and vibrant, and attracting an interesting hospitality operator can be very beneficial when marketing the other uses within a scheme.
Whilst landowners often have a ‘tenant mix policy’, the urban regeneration process often means developers have a different requirement depending on the type of property, area and point in time. For example, local businesses help the developer engage with the existing communities who can often be sceptical of developers’ intentions towards ‘regeneration’.