Our WPA NextGen committee members, Grace Packard and Claire Hepher – Davies reflect on the 2021 walking tour of London’s West End:
As the 2021 event season came to a close, the WPA NextGen committee, along with Shaftesbury and The Crown Estate, hosted a real estate walking tour of London’s West End, beautifully positioned under the Soho, Regent Street and Oxford Street Christmas lights.
The tour, which hosted real estate students from the University of Westminster, was led by committee members and guest speakers from across the property industry, providing students with an exciting introduction to the breadth of the profession.
While being given an in-depth tour of the West End’s property, architecture and landmarks, students were able to discuss the leading placemaking and public realm initiatives that have changed and continue to transform the area. The tour and lively discussion demonstrated how the built environment can create a positive impact for customers, visitors and the community alike.
The discussion revealed some interesting insight from our budding professionals, and we took the opportunity to ask their views on the future trends of the industry and their vision of what a good public realm should offer.
The students delivered clear messages; our public realm should be greener and more captivating with space dedicated to art and people. We can see the beginnings of this on Regent Street and Carnaby Street, two vibrant areas of London, but this could be extended further across the city to increase footfall and encourage interaction with the built environment.
In terms of future trends, sustainability reigned as the most mentioned answer but similarly, many students highlighted the requirement for flexible, and smarter spaces incorporating digital innovation to deliver what occupiers need and to fuel the economy.
When designing property and public spaces for the future, incorporating the thoughts of young people who are excited about the prospect of shaping and occupying the West End is a refreshing contribution to the debate.
The pandemic has taught us all that trends can shift and the market can adapt quickly, and the property industry needs to be agile and flexible in responding, adopting new approaches to commercial occupiers. As trends ebb and flow the drive and innovation of young people will assist the industry to stay at the forefront and ensure success.
Some of our favourite comments included:
“In my public realm I’d like to see better wayfinding through exciting and more engaging surfaces. I’d like to be led through exciting public spaces without the use of maps on my phone. At the moment, we have symbols on poles but there are more exciting ways to guide people – colour and textures for example.”
Janniah Evans, President of the UoW Real Estate Society
“I would like more green, I really like what we have now on Regent Street – spaces for people to take a break, a little bit more planting. Reducing the number of cars is also important, so there is more space for people and for seasonal markets.”
Chloe, property and development student, University of Westminster
“Sustainability is a very established trend but what I’m disappointed by at the moment is inclusivity. We still don’t see gender neutral facilities and wheelchair access on all new buildings. I’d like to see more intention here in future.”
Amy Keary-Smith, property and development student, University of Westminster
“After the pandemic we’ll need to see smarter buildings that can be converted into different uses easily. Building technology needs to catch up with the needs of building users. I also expect we’ll need to have taller buildings to deliver the residential units that are needed.”
Sebastian, property and development student, University of Westminster
A big thank you to the members of our WPA NextGen committee and Shaftesbury that led and took part in the walking tour:
Grace Packard (Principal Consultant, Momentum Transport), Ciara Daffy (Asset Manager, CBRE Investment Management), Claire Hepher-Davies (Development Manager – Public Realm, The Crown Estate) and Alice Murphy (Head of Partnerships, New West End Company). External guests comprised Lydia Clarkson, Head of Public Realm, and Sarah Torrance, Public Realm and Policy Manager at Shaftesbury.