Architect Richard Rogers dreams of Barcelona-style revamp of Wimbledon
A fifteen year vision for Wimbledon's town centre could pave the way for a pedestrianised high street, a high tech business suburb and 24-storey tower block.
Dozens of councillors, business leaders and community representatives gathered for the first Future Wimbledon conference today to discuss their hopes for the town centre.
It comes amid a wave of anticipation of CrossRail 2 - a high speed rail way set to connect Wimbledon to north and east London.
Councillor Andrew Judge, Merton Council's cabinet member for environmental sustainability and regeneration, called the multi-million pound plan a "game changer".
While Paul McGarry, head of the council's Future Merton team, said Wimbledon was in a "scenario of growth" which should be planned for.
Those speaking at the event included world renowned architect Lord Richard Rogers, Dragons Den entrepreneur Theo Paphitis, deputy Mayor of London for business and enterprise Kit Malthouse and MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond.
While hopes of a pedestrianised high street, improved cycling facilities and aspirations to define Wimbledon as a ‘tech suburb’ were floated, there was no discussion on controversial proposals for a 24-storey tower block as part of the development of the YMCA on the Broadway.
The Wimbledon Guardian this week saw documents proposing a variety of designs for the site which includes a 24 storey building for the YMCA surrounded by smaller high rise blocks, as well an option on a shorter 14 storey building.
While formal plans have not yet been unveiled, Conservative councillors in Abbey and Trinity wards are already campaigning against the high rise calling it a "monstrosity" that would set a "dangerous precedent and change our town centre forever."
Speaking at the conference Lord Rogers, whose architect's firm is set to design the building, refrained from discussing the project but did put forward his vision for a pedestrianised high street stretching from the junction of Hartfield Road, past centre court and the Piazza.
Hopes for a pedestrianised "Wimbledon Ramblas"
World renowned architect Richard Lord Rodgers believes the key to improving Wimbledon’s town centre was to create a pedestrianised town centre.
Taking inspiration from Barcelona’s Las Ramblas - a pedestrainised area free from vehicles - Lord Rogers outlined his vision for a care free town centre with additional trees, seating areas high quality pavements and ‘greened up’ roofs topped with gardens and trees.
He said: "Planning is all about people. There is an opportunity to make Wimbledon a place for people and more friendly in terms of the built environment, streets and pavements.
"Wimbledon is very well served by public transport and, as the new Crossrail will be here, what we’re really saying is we want to use less and less cars.
"Within the next 30 years we will see a difference in the use because many areas will be closed to cars and will become public spaces."
On his vision to pedestrainise The Broadway he said: "There’s enough public transport and a wide enough space so that you would have a wonderful high street - we should be removing the traffic from these areas and creating a beautiful Wimbledon Ramblas.
"There is tremendous potential.
"The landscaping and paving here is currently pretty terrible but with more trees, high quality pavements, places to sit and by greening up the roofs with gardens and trees, it could become a place people come to see because it is so beautiful."
The Italian born architect's previous buildings include Heathrow’s terminal five, the Pompidou centre in Paris and the Millennium Dome.
YMCA in discussion over 24-storey tower block in Wimbledon's Broadway
A 24-storey building could be built in Wimbledon as part of plans to redevelop the YMCA on the Broadway.
While formal plans have not yet been released, developers have proposed a variety of designs for the site, including a 24 storey building surrounded by smaller high rise blocks as well an option on a shorter 14 storey building.
Currently the building stands at seven storeys.
Should plans for a 24-storey skyscraper progress it would dwarf any other building in Merton, seven storeys taller than the Brown and Root tower in Colliers Wood and 10 storeys taller than the Morden Civic centre.
Wimbledon’s YMCA has been working on its strategic plan to redevelop its building on the Broadway in Wimbledon since 2010 which includes a commitment to build a brand new YMCA building, 100 hostel units, provide better training facilities, a larger health facility, a public plaza with green space and a cafe.
A spokesperson for the YMCA said: "The architects and development partners are preparing a proposal for Wimbledon YMCA and are considering a number of design options based on viability.
"This is an enabling development which will secure the long term future of the YMCA in Wimbledon, and the services it provides for local residents and the wider community.
"A public exhibition will be held in October and we will be inviting local residents and businesses to view our proposals and give feedback."
A "tech suburb" to rival Old Street's tech city.
MP for Wimbledon Stephen Hammond spoke about his hopes of building Wimbledon into a ‘tech suburb’ to rival tech city in London’s Old Street.
And rather than trying to be like Croydon or a "twee market village" Mr Hammond said Wimbledon should instead aspire to be more like South Kensington and do more to attract high quality retailers.
He said: "I was particularly struck a couple of months ago in my advice surgery when a resident came to me saying that there were 30 of them who run high tech creative businesses.
"Twenty years ago Old Street was a desert.
"It’s now tech city.
"Why can’t Wimbledon be the tech suburb?"
The transport minister went on to say that Wimbledon should be aspiring to be more like South Kensington by attracting high quality retailers.
Wimbledon is in a "scenario of growth"
Wimbledon is on the brink of garnering major global investment according to deputy Mayor of London for business and enterprise Kit Malthouse.
Mr Malthouse believes the town, the only London borough to benefit from tram, rail, bus and underground and soon Crossrail 2 connections, will be attractive to overseas investors.
He said: "Once the attraction of Wimbledon becomes apparent to the world they will start to see the opportunities and secure sites for the future.
"My tip is to get in early.
"The Mayor's office is going in October to China and we will be taking Wimbledon with us in our back pocket to see if we can get some of the billions of pounds they seem to have.
"Let’s hope we see the world moving here in the future."
When questioned about the possible influx of international business in Wimbledon he said: "I don’t think foreign investment is to be sniffed at.
"Look at Westfield in Croydon which was built by Australian investors.
"I think it’s very hard for us to say no to international capital but we have to make sure that its works for us.
"That’s the critical thing."
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