Over the last decade, the growth of some of London’s key commercial and social destinations has been in no small part down to the presence of a university. Think of Granary Square and the role that Central Saint Martins has played. King’s Cross and the presence of UCL. White City and the impact of Imperial College London. The Olympic Park and the draw of the future UCL campus.
Would each of these locations have experienced such success without the presence of a university? Would Google call Granary Square home without Central St Martins? Would pharmaceutical giant Novartis have moved from outside of London to White City without Imperial College London’s presence? Would King’s Cross have been chosen as the home for the Francis Crick Institute without UCL being a stone’s throw away?
The power a university has to help regenerate a location or stimulate growth isn’t lost on local authorities or the developer community. I’ve had multiple conversations over the last few years with both parties about their attempts to involve universities in big regeneration projects.
But the development plan flagging universities as a regeneration anchor or placemaking stimulator was for the last decade. As London seeks to rebuild in the wake of COVID-19, universities should be front and centre of a reimagined and recalibrated capital.
Here are a few ways I think universities can help London to come back stronger: