Robert Evans, the chief executive of developers Kings Cross Central Partnership Limited
Published: 26 July, 2012
by DAN CARRIER
THE 67-acre King’s Cross project will have new buildings constructed without tenants ready to move in, the chief executive of developers Kings Cross Central Partnership Limited has revealed.
Robert Evans, speaking exclusively to the New Journal, said that criticism from civic groups and King’s Cross residents over a policy only to build when deals had been signed was no longer valid.
The development includes more than 2,000 new homes, two new primary schools, a university, a sports centre, scores of new shops and restaurants, offices, a health centre and a new building for council offices.
The King’s Cross Central Partnership have been working on the scheme for more than 12 years and a tour of the site shows crucial infrastructure is essentially finished.
The Central Saint Martins arts university has completed its first academic year, and social housing elements of the scheme are soon to be filled with new households.
After planning permission was finalised in 2006, the developers laid out different plots and sought tenants for buildings that were still on the architects’ drawing board.
But it led to criticism that work was progressing slowly as the developers were not keen to pour foundations until deals had been signed.
That has now changed. Previously, Mr Evans explained, work would only begin on new blocks once a tenant had been confirmed due to accessing bank finance. Now, with the development well underway, they are prepared to start work on new buildings without knowing who will move in.
“We had been only building with confirmed tenants up to now,” he said.
“We needed a lot of money to provide the infrastructure, and everything we received we re-invested.
“We had to pour money into the public realm and it is a massive investment.
“There was not the spare capacity available to build speculative buildings and there has not been any doubt about that. In the last four years there has not been the borrowing available, but now there is some lending capacity for this project.
“It is seen by lenders as a special project and it means we are now able to push on and build before we have signed the deals with new tenants.”
Mr Evans can pinpoint through the many cranes on site what each one represents for his company’s vision. This includes high-end homes called Art House along York Way, designed by Dutch architects dRMM, and much of the social housing element to the north of the site.
To the west of the university, work is progressing at the Coal Drops and the West Transit Shed. This is a new “high street”, where the nightclubs Bagleys and The Cross used to be found.
The minutiae of leases are being thrashed out with potential tenants. Critics of the scheme say they fear it will become “another Covent Garden” – packed with shops that cater for tourists but nothing of any real interest to the people living in the area.
Mr Evans refutes this, and cites bar-restaurant Caravan as an example of what to expect. It is the first to sign up to take space, and Mr Evans said more are in the pipeline.
“The aim is to get an eclectic mix of retail,” he said. “There will be shops and restaurants, possibly also a micro brewery, and smaller office space.
“We won’t be competing in retail terms with the West End.
“We want it to be a unique place, somewhere where people who live in the area should want to come to because it provides lots of choice. I want shops here where your partner will come to buy clothes or jewellery because it is a one-off.”
The first social housing blocks are rising up on York Way, and Mr Evans said he was particularly pleased with the design. One block, called Rubicon, includes red tiling that matches London Underground glazed tiles opposite on the former York Way Tube stop.
Its next-door block boasts glazed green tiles as part of the finish and a mixture of brick reliefs.
Mr Evans described it as being a “little Manhattany, or taking its cue form the Chicago School”.
“These are big buildings, so we have tried to create a real sense of detail,” he added.
Elsewhere, on the northern end of the site, the 27-storey student accommodation next to Agar Grove, is rapidly rising and should be complete in time for the 2013 academic year.