The City of London has announced sweeping plans with which to transform parts of the Square Mile to take into account the concerns that the number of workers returning post COVID is set to reduce.
The corporation has launched a new report admitting it must adapt to post-pandemic economic and social trends in order to remain “a world-leading ecosystem”.
The Square Mile: Future City, produced by the City Corporation’s Recovery Taskforce in partnership with Oliver Wyman, sets out a vision for the next five years with detailed actions to enhance the City’s competitiveness and attractiveness.
The report focuses on three key dimensions of the City’s offer: fostering an innovative ecosystem for businesses and talent; ensuring a vibrant offer that engages workers, visitors, learners and residents; and delivering outstanding environments that support people and businesses with sustainable buildings, high quality streets and public spaces.
Lord Mayor of the City of London, William Russell, said: “Hope is now on the horizon as our economy starts to reopen bringing a semblance of normality to life in the City.
“This report sets out how we can leverage this momentum and build back better. 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.”
The report commits the City Corporation to a number of activities to deliver this vision, including:
> World class business ecosystem
> Working with private sector partners to provide workspace, advice, digital skills, access to networks and capital. The City Corporation will curate an ecosystem of high-potential tech-led businesses. It will introduce them to City networks that can help them establish and grow. We will work with technology sectors not traditionally located in the Square Mile to help them access this ecosystem.
>Ensuring the City is a global testbed for data-driven technologies. The City will also facilitate data-sharing that can be used by data-driven businesses to test solutions. The data-sharing pilot for the London Data Commission (now Data for London) is one such example.
>A newly rebranded Small Business Research and Enterprise Centre – replacing the existing City Business Library – will open its doors to start-ups and SMEs on 10 May. It will support the creation and growth of sustainable businesses in the City, London and the UK by providing access to essential data and advice.
It has also pledged to work with the property industry to enable and promote sustainable, flexible and adaptable buildings. The City Corporation will explore new ways to use vacant space and aim for at least 1,500 new residential units by 2030.
It is also launching a pilot scheme with UK mobile infrastructure services provider, Cornerstone, that will see Queen Victoria Street used to demonstrate that mobile infrastructure can support the requirements of the four licensed mobile network operators.
“Cornerstone is the exclusive partner to the City of London Corporation for the deployment of small cell and rooftop infrastructure,” explained the report. “If successful, there will be a City-wide deployment that will deliver 5G coverage across the Square Mile by the end of 2022. Support will also be given to develop renewable energy, heat networks and smart grid infrastructure to enable the transition to net zero.”
Policy Chair at the City of London Corporation, Catherine McGuinness, added: “We have been listening to businesses of all sizes in the City to understand how the pandemic has affected their ways of working and their needs going forward. Firms have told us that they remain committed to retaining a central London hub but how they operate will inevitably change to reflect post-pandemic trends, such as hybrid and flexible working.
“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.”