How to deliver 20 King's Cross style regeneration projects across the UK

Katie Kopec, Head of Strategic Development Consulting at JLL reflects on how the UK government can deliver King’s Cross style regeneration projects

May 17, 2022

As part of its plans to “level up” across the country, the UK government has said it will support 20 “King’s Cross–style regeneration projects”, to transform derelict urban sites into beautiful communities. 

With its complete mix of uses - catalysed initially by Central St Martins - great independent retail and f&b, cool architecture, trendy piazzas, art galleries, different types of homes, Google, and host of other great occupiers, the area around King’s Cross station has come a long way in the last 15 years. 

And as a template for urban regeneration – or put another way, taking a rundown and unappealing area and turning it into something amazing – it’s a great one to follow.

But how easy is it to actually do?

King’s Cross is so successful because of a few key factors – the equivalent of single ownership which led to a JV set up for the long term; a resultant ability to curate meanwhile uses and the public realm throughout the scheme; a fantastic transport hub; and in 2000, a more flexible selection process.

It is very hard to replicate that across Sheffield, Wolverhampton and the other places that have since been announced will receive the King’s Cross regeneration treatment – so we need to innovate to build on each of their strengths, and create their own distinct equivalent.

So let’s strip things back to the fundamentals of placemaking, and just focus on delivering really good regeneration projects – all of which ask the same questions: 

  • What are the opportunities and challenges for the public and private sector to work together over the long timeframes involved?
  • How to deal with the mixed-use challenges across the uses and the different models involved?
  • What is the institutional capital appetite to be involved?
  • How does the industry respond to the need to measure and create social and environmental value alongside financial value?

So maybe we’re actually asking the wrong question. It’s not about replicating King’s Cross – it’s about transformative regeneration projects. But if we really, really we want to level up across the country, we’re going to need a lot more than 20 of them!