Take people with you, says Matt Yeoman

There’s long term value in more sensitive mixed use, argues the founder of architect Buckley Gray Yeoman

The two projects we’ve worked on with Socius are mixed use in city centres. Edward Street Quarter, Brighton is complete. Devonshire Gardens, Cambridge is under construction.

Both re-knit bits of urban fabric and help build a better sense of community. Edward Street Quarter replaced the Brutalist American Express HQ in Kemptown and is the largest spec’ office development in Brighton for 25 years. It pre-let to Octopus Energy. It includes 168 homes to rent or buy, cafés and restaurants and reinstates Mighell Street, restoring an old route through the site.

Devonshire Gardens, a former Travis Perkins depot next to the main line will create 120,000 sq ft of workspace and 70 build to rent homes, a new park and community food garden. It is designed to One Planet Living principles and should increase the site’s bio-diversity by 375%.

Retail space, café, restaurants and creche are included. Our design uses brick and pitched roofs, and refers to Cambridge’s vernacular housing terraces that line the other side of Devonshire Road.

Both schemes are lessons in taking people with you. More responsive developments are replacing those from previous eras that were ‘pigeon-holed’ in their uses for planning, or investment reasons. Socius is a developer that has got its head around the idea that mixed uses really enliven an area, and in Patron Capital in Brighton and Railpen in Cambridge, they have long term investor partners who see the value in that.

These influences are widespread, as we’re finding working on the Truman Brewery in Brick Lane or Fish Island in Hackney Wick, for example. If you look at recent mixed use developments, like Kings Cross, it’s difficult to recall one that isn’t successful. And while we may complain about the time it takes to win planning, it can help us get things right.