In a wide ranging interview, Andre Gibbs has spoken of the success of a mixed use approach in regenerating urban areas. Working with real estate developer Argent, he was involved in the delivery of the Kings Cross regeneration scheme, a £6bn project that has reinvigorated the area north of St Pancras station.
Argent's approach integrated business planning, finance, infrastructure and sustainability into a large scale transformational urban project. Focused on city building, the developer's approach is defined by its longterm relationships across the supply chain that enable lessons learned to be carried from project to project.
But that doesn't mean that Argent isn't open to working with new suppliers and businesses. What's important is striking the balance between established relationships and new ways of thinking and working.
From Kings Cross to Brent Cross
The Kings Cross regeneration project has been an undeniable success, but Gibbs has found a new focus in the Brent Cross Town regeneration project that embraces Brent Cross Town; the redevelopment of Brent Cross shopping centre and related infrastructure and the new Brent Cross West Thameslink station.
This £5bn scheme will deliver 6,700 new homes, sports facilities, student accommodation and restaurants all set in 20ha of parks and playing fields. In addition the scheme will provide 3M.ft2 of office space with the first office buildings expected to open in 2024.
But for those who imagine the Brent Cross Town development will be a clone of King's Cross, Gibbs is quick to point out that Argent treats each project within its context. And while they may be proud of what was achieved in the earlier project Brent Cross Town will focus on a health and wellbeing agenda, based on sustainability and the integration of nature and sound across the development.
When it comes to energy infrastructure, partnering with Vattenfall was a logical solution to creating a low-carbon project. Owned by the Swedish government, the energy company has a mission to be fossil fuel free within a generation. It's this level of innovation that Gibbs wants to tap into, providing a low temperature heat and power system that operates on multiple sustainable sources. It's a strategy that was used successfully in the King's Cross regeneration and will be taken to another level in the current project.
The Brent Cross Town project has several natural advantages. It's well located in terms of highway infrastructure which Gibbs intends to connect and ensure long term accessibility. The new Thameslink station will address any issues around rail accessibility although integrating highways and rail has been a major engineering challenge.
Long term, holistic thinking is involved at every level of the design and construction of the project, which will be delivered in a series of phases. Each building decision is market driven, with a detailed cost-benefit analysis before construction begins. The challenge for the wider supply chain is to understand the economic drivers behind every capital allocation decision.
Gibbs is clearly keen to engender a culture of challenge and curiosity rather than one of complacency. What he demands from the supply chain, he insists, is only what he demands from his own organisation. While pushing ahead, it's important to remain anchored is Gibbs philosophy for success.