Croydon, that almost-city, birth place of The Cure, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Martin Clunes and Kate Nash, is about to finally mature into its rightful destiny, thanks to a £1billion regeneration scheme which is finally under way.
Mark Glatman, chief executive of Abstract (Croydon) described the reason for such an ambitious refurb;
“Like most of our residents, the council is under no illusion that parts of the town centre in particular have suffered from design mistakes that must not be repeated,” he said. Croydon residents would agree that this is an understatement if ever there was one!
The good news is major development starts in March with on the borough’s first speculative office block, a five-storey building in Dingwall Road being built with 20,000 sq ft of space on each floor.
Mr Glatman further explained to the local press; “A lot of Croydon has been built by bad architects. Quite frankly there are a lot of buildings which would be best served by being put on the scrapheap. Don’t bother refurbishing them, throw them away. Nothing has happened in Croydon for 20 years because bad architecture has produced buildings with rubbish floor plates, which means tall buildings with small floors.Croydon has so much potential. If you build the right buildings, the occupiers will come.”
The Brutalist sixties saw 49 tower blocks built in Croydon with five million square feet of office space by 1971, turning the centre into an ugly concrete jungle, spawning a reputation and look that has been impossible for the almost-city to shake off. Until now. It has even earned its own noun: Google ‘Croydonisation’ and you will find the term used to oppose concrete, Brutalist-style building projects in Bromley, Ealing, Canada Water, and south-west’s Putney.
Purley-based architect Tarsem Flora recalls the four towers built at the Whitgift Centre in the 1960s as the first of many concrete eyesores. “When those buildings went up, the original quality of Croydon’s architecture was spoilt,” he said. “People in the industry were afraid to say their office was in Croydon because of the reputation it had. It was a concrete jungle and no one wanted to visit because of that.”
So what can Croydonites expect from this new scheme which others have failed to deliver in the past?
The Menta development: 54-storey tower, 400+ apartments, a hotel and an office building.
1 Landsdowne Road: 200m building (just 35m shorter than Canary Wharf)