Regeneration project: Cricklewood
Cricklewood has been awarded £1.7m by the Outer London Fund, complemented by nearly £600k from Barnet and Brent Councils, to revitalise its high street and create a unified and attractive destination. With the expansion of the nearby Brent Cross Shopping Centre and the prospect of 7,500 new homes being developed, Cricklewood has an opportunity to attract many more visitors in the coming years. The concerted effort catalysed through the Mayor’s investment has been welcomed locally in a place trisected by three local authorities. Tired shop fronts are being revamped, public spaces decluttered and repaved, lighting improved and trees planted, all to create a more welcoming and appealing high street. At the same time, training workshops and mentoring schemes for the local business community are helping to boost enterprise, particularly amongst young people.
Cricklewood has little official public space – not even a single bench. In response, regeneration agency Spacemakers created the Cricklewood Town Square project to raise awareness and prompt a conversation about the sort of spaces the community needs. Designed by Studio Kieren Jones, this miniaturised building resembling a town hall – often a symbol of civic space - was mounted on a bicycle and moved about the area, pausing on forgotten patches of land to reclaim them as public spaces. This playful gesture sparked public interest while posing serious questions about how underused spaces might become genuine amenities. It helped to tell a different, positive story about Cricklewood.
Two new annual events have been developed for Cricklewood, to help build community spirit and attract life to the town centre. The Silk Road Festival, held in September, celebrates Cricklewood’s ethnic diversity with stalls and events serving up international food, art, fashion and music. WinterFest in November offers festive markets, music and food. The 2013 WinterFest was used as to launch bespoke festive lighting designed for the town centre by Haberdashery London. These events complement the promotion of Cricklewood town centre and create a positive opportunity for collaboration between businesses, residents and the council.
Redesigning public spaces
A host of public space improvements designed by Robin Lee Architecture and East Architecture Landscape Urban Design is helping to create a more unified and attractive centre. Pavements are being renewed, de-cluttered and widened to clearly define public spaces. The forecourt of Cricklewood Station is being extended and replanted to offer a welcoming entrance to the town and a sign painted on the railway bridge will announce Cricklewood as a place in its own right. A raised central reservation and the removal of unnecessary guardrails will make pedestrian movement easier throughout the town centre. Finally, with support from the Mayor of London’s Pocket Park Initiative, a neglected playground will become an exciting and flexible social space.
Smartening shop fronts
A parade of nine shops facing Cricklewood Lane and three opposite the famous Crown Moran Hotel have been chosen as a priority for refurbishment. The improvements are unifying shop front levels and cleaning and restoring upper level brickwork and detailing. New signs featuring heritage techniques such as hand-painted glass and mosaic are restoring the shops’ character and the reinstatement of awnings recalls the Victorian grandeur of the Broadway. Four of the awnings will be decorated with designs that tie in with a graphic identity developed by graphic designers Polimekanos for Cricklewood.
Mayoral investment is supporting the Youth Engagement Scheme (YES) run by local charity Ashford Place. YES is helping 10 young people take up apprenticeships and also offers incubator space and training for start-up businesses. Meanwhile, existing Cricklewood businesses are benefiting from a new forum, with networking events and advice on business planning, tax law, marketing and visual merchandising. In addition to the Silk Road Festival and WinterFest, events like the Walking Restaurant, which took participants on a tasty tour of local eateries, are helping to change perceptions and boost trade. Portrait of a High Street, a shop window exhibition of photographs of business owners and employees, taken by local photographer Thomas Ball, celebrates Cricklewood’s enterprising community.
The Cricklewood Improvement Programme, an umbrella organisation for local groups in the area that works with local authorities, Assembly Members and MPs, was instrumental in the successful Outer London Fund bid. With support from the investment, including guidance on becoming formally established and in-house capacity-building, the group has been turned into a town team with official terms of reference and an elected board. Cricklewood has also been given a new website which features a local business directory.
The preparation of a design strategy for Cricklewood is underway. This document will set out a vision for the area and help to guide future development, uses, public space and highways investment, and building frontage improvements. It offers a clear framework for shaping and steering current and future development opportunities by establishing the principles that will help the town centre stay healthy in the future.
Preparing for change
In tandem with Cricklewood’s proposed public space improvements and the design strategy, a design charter is being produced to be agreed by all three constituent boroughs. This charter will confirm a palette of materials and a maintenance regime that will guarantee a consistent appearance of the town centre in the long-term. Together, the design strategy and the charter will define how the town centre can be expanded to the north (to Oxgate Gardens), connecting clusters of current and future retail and residential development and improving the pedestrian environment.
Partners/client: LB Barnet, LB Brent, LB Camden
Consultants: Robin Lee Architecture, East Architecture Landscape Urban Design, Gort Scott, Retail Revival, Spacemakers, Keiren Jones, Polimekanos, Haberdashery, Udenson Caldbeck
Funding: Mayor of London £1.7m, LB Barnet £480,000, LB Brent £110,000