More people could be making their home in converted office blocks in the City of London as part of ambitious plans to create homes for 1,500 residents as part of the post-Covid bounce back.
The Square Mile is currently home to around 8,000 people and pre-pandemic some senior office workers might stay there in flats during the working week before heading off over the weekend.
Before lockdown half-a-million people commuted into the City every weekday for work and it was very quiet at weekends with some shops and bars closing.
Now the City of London Corporation has unveiled its ambitious post-pandemic five-year recovery plan which includes creating 1,500 homes in converted office blocks.
The Square Mile: Future City plan was drawn up by the Corporation’s Recovery Taskforce and management consultants Oliver Wyman after talking to 4,500 members of the public and 250 senior leaders.
Lord Mayor of the City of London, William Russell, said: “The Square Mile’s future is bright and we will rise to the challenge of adapting to the new normal that emerges after the pandemic.”
He said the City plans to build back better.
“It’s a blueprint to bounce back after the pandemic to ensure the Square Mile is the world’s most innovative, inclusive and sustainable business ecosystem as well as an attractive place to work, live, learn and visit.”
The report says: “There will be something here for everyone.”
The council aims to work with property firms to come up with more flexible uses for vacant sites.
The area has traditionally been a centre for business since office building accelerated after World War Two. In 1890 the City’s population was 129,000, now half of its 8,000 residents live in the Barbican estate.
But this decline could start to be reversed post pandemic as the demand for five-day-a-week offices drops.
The council says it plans to do this by championing an “innovative place for businesses and workers, ensuring the City is a vibrant place for visitors, commuters and residents and creating outstanding environments with sustainable buildings, high quality streets and public spaces”.
Catherine McGuinness, who chairs the City’s influential policy committee said:
“The Square Mile must evolve in order to provide an ecosystem that remains attractive to workers, visitors, learners and residents. This will involve encouraging growth, fostering talent from all backgrounds, providing a vibrant leisure offer and offering outstanding environments.
“Inclusion, innovation and sustainability should be at the core of the future City. We remain confident that the Square Mile will return to its usual buzz and vibrancy by building on these pillars.”
The moves include a pilot with mobile infrastructure provider Cornerstone along Queen Victoria Street to show how it can support the existing mobile operators.
If successful, it could pave the way to delivering 5G coverage across the Square Mile by the end of 2022.
The City will also support green technology, including renewable energy and heat networks to help meet net zero carbon emission targets.
Other moves include encouraging technology businesses which are not traditionally based in the City to move there.
And a rebranded Small Business Research and Enterprise Centre – which replaces the popular City Business Library – will open its doors on May 11 to help support entrepreneurs and people improving their skills.
It will also help creative and cultural businesses with cheaper lets in empty or barely-used buildings.
And it aims to breathe life into the City at weekends and evenings with a range of cultural events along with traffic-free Saturdays and Sundays and even an all-night celebration.
Nick Bodger, the Corporation’s cultural and visitor development director said post pandemic the pattern of office life could see a “Tuesday to Thursday intensity”.