The past decade has seen the transformation of Kings Cross from a rundown, former red light district into a buzzing neighbourhood, a place to meet, eat, live, work and – of course – travel into and out of. It's become a hub for people from all walks of life and of all ages to enjoy. What we see today started with a vision, a commitment to responsible development and a willingness to co-operate. And it continues. At the helm of one of the largest and most successful redevelopments in recent years is David Partridge, Managing Partner of Argent (and Joint CEO of Argent Related). We were lucky enough to welcome him to our offices, where he gave the inside track on managing a project of this scale and significance.
With 67 acres to work with, David – a trained architect - leads the team behind the redevelopment and the rejuvenation of Kings Cross. It was back in 2007, when London secured the 2012 Olympic Games, that this iconic project came to the fore, driven by the need to invest in infrastructure. The 2012 deadline provided the motivation to finally realise the scheme.
But before work could commence, it was important for stakeholders to buy into and share Argent's vision. Involving contractors and people throughout the supply chain early cements the vision and helps to avoid disputes further down the line. The way forward, David believes, is to find the common cause and to have frank conversations about what the drivers are. "80 – 90% of drivers are common: new jobs, news homes, cleaner streets". It was, he says, a question of balancing demands and combining the aesthetic vision with a pragmatic view of what was needed. "It's about finding the highest common factor, versus the lowest common denominator".
The brief was that Kings Cross should be a place that those working on it would want to go to themselves. This has been a core consideration for all the redevelopments Argent has worked on around the UK – and one that developers across the globe would be wise to adopt. After all, if you wouldn't want to go there, why would anybody else? This has to apply to all the stakeholders involved, because the result should not represent one person's vision, but the collective input of many. And this multi-layered approach is evident in the area: "there's no one element you could take away" says David. In fact, he likes it so much that he both lives and works in Kings Cross, with Argent being one of the first companies to move in. It is necessary, he feels, "to walk the talk".
So what is it about the Kings Cross redevelopment that just works? Possibly, it's in the fact that the history of the area has been respected and celebrated: "we wanted to keep its edge" said David. So they have welcomed creativity, with the relocation of Central St Martins Art College to the Granary Building, and they've also embraced the music vibe the area was once famed for. The range of restaurants, bars, cafes and pop-ups alongside outside space encourages a wide range of people to use Kings Cross as a meeting ground. It is important for David to demonstrate that "real people" are customers – that locational elitism isn't an unintended consequence. "It's about achieving social as well as financial outcomes."
The beauty of the Kings Cross project is that, with another five to six years to go until completion, there's much more to come. The Thomas Heatherwick designed Coal Drops Yard retail development is expected to be completed in three years' time, with outlet names being announced in the coming months. We can expect a mixture of shops, from high end through to chains and individual collections. Much like the food scene, there will be something for every taste and every wallet.
With the Kings Cross redevelopment in its credentials, Argent is full steam ahead with redevelopments planned in Tottenham Hale and Brent Cross Cricklewood. With a clear agenda to do much more than make millions, we're confident we'll be witnessing more master classes in regeneration.