Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Fitzrovia reloaded

One minute the hoardings seem to have been there forever, then suddenly there are six tower cranes and some very substantial concrete shafts soaring skywards. This is the long-empty Middlesex Hospital site and development is powering ahead. Naturally this is not popular with local businesses and residents. Never mind the encouraging images of red telephone boxes and other heritage paraphernalia on those hoardings: you don't even have to look up the plans to know what it's going to be like. The giant stair cores say it all. It isn't going to be anything you would want to find in the wonderful and historic narrow streets of Fitzrovia, not refined small-scale buildings with unique businesses, art galleries and coffee shops and useful stuff that's been there forever. Inevitably, it will be just like all the other big developments, like the glass slabs of Triton Place on the Euston Road or the orange and green bulk of St Giles Place for example. There will be huge anonymous office buildings let out by the thousand square metres, flats that will be bought as an investment, and some other stuff tacked on. Of course there will be some supposedly public space and some grudging proportion of so-called affordable housing, probably even some coffee shops and a token art gallery, but it's also going to be big and unfriendly and contribute nothing very positive to the character of the area, apart from not being left derelict any longer. The public space will not of course be managed by the council, as a truly public space would be - it will be privately owned and policed by private security guards.

Back in 2011, Fitzrovia News reported breathlessly 'there is an emerging cultural shift where a wave of anti-consumerism has now penetrated mainstream thinking about cities'. That was before the friendlier version, which did have something to offer the local community, was ditched in favour of the maximum return for outlay model. Going up...