What skills can a successful urban mixed-use developer bring to greenfield development?
Towns and cities are all about close connections. The best examples have homes, offices, shops, education, leisure and public parks in close proximity. It’s always been like that because before trains and cars there wasn’t time to travel between work and home. And before the noxious fumes of the Industrial Revolution only a few uses like tanneries were so unpleasant as to need to be separated. For over 2,000 years even wealthy merchants were happy to live above the shop and their apprentices slept on the shop floor. Modern transport changed all that. It promised everyone the opportunity to live in a leafy suburb. It was a model that worked well from 1900 to 1980 but is increasingly flawed. First because it has become utterly reliant on overcrowded roads and trains. Second because it has spawned a type of meaningless architecture that fails to create communities and leaves each person isolated in their own box or castle, rarely within walking distance of shops, schools and employment or even an effective bus service. Urban mixed-use developers are confronting these issues. At schemes like King’s Cross we once again bring homes, shops, offices, education, leisure and restaurants together in close proximity. Equally importantly we are creating a public realm that is active and beautiful to make walking a pleasure. For me, sustainability and happiness are both served by urban development whether on the scale of a city centre or market town.
Peter and his brother Michael co-founded Argent in 1981. It has since become one of the UK’s leading developers, creating major schemes in Manchester, Birmingham and at London’s King’s Cross. Peter is also a founder and director of Mayfields Market Towns, which is promoting a new town in Sussex, designed by a team including Metropolitan Workshop.
Peter Freeman, founder of Argent and Mayfield Market Towns