A major regeneration project fronted by University College London, University of the Arts London, the Victoria & Albert Museum and Sadler’s Wells Theatre looks set to take the transformation of Stratford to a new level.
The creation of a new higher education and cultural district on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is expected to deliver 3,000 jobs, 1.5 million additional visitors and £2.8bn of economic value to Stratford and the surrounding area.
Following confirmation in December that the government is committing £141m from its National Infrastructure Plan to help deliver London Mayor Boris Johnson’s Olympicopolis vision, the Mayor said: “This is an important milestone in our plans to realise a legacy from the 2012 Olympic Games that reaps economic and social dividends to last for generations to come.”
UCL East, which is expected to open in 2018, is seen as a radical new model of how a university campus can be embedded in the local community, as well as providing world-leading research, education, entrepreneurship and innovation.
UCL vice-provost Professor Stephen Caddick said: “UCL East represents the largest ever single expansion of UCL since the university was founded nearly 200 years ago. Our 11-acre site south of the ArcelorMittal Orbit will be a beacon of how universities should work in decades to come – outward looking, connected to the local community and providing facilities to businesses to work on site to bring new discoveries and inventions out of the lab and into the marketplace.”
These will include the university’s first School of Design, a UCL Museum of the Future and the UCL Centre for Experimental Engineering, which will be established to address the acute skills shortage in engineering and develop new approaches to experiential learning alongside prototyping and manufacturing facilities.
This is not the first attempt that UCL has made to open a campus in Stratford. In 2012, a £1bn scheme to develop a new UCL university quarter, create an estimated 3,300 jobs and add an extra £150m per year to the local economy was agreed by Newham Council.
But that project was abandoned after opposition from residents, who objected to the university’s plans to redevelop the Carpenters Estate on the edge of the Olympic Park.
The latest plans, however, are on a far bigger scale and add justification to an earlier claim made by The Sunday Times Style magazine that Stratford is “one of the most astonishing transformations that London – and probably Europe – has ever seen”.
Nelly Berova, of residential specialist Intero Investments, says: “We have been analysing the prospects of property value growth in Stratford since London won the right to host the Olympic Games in 2005. We operate a property investment service and are now starting to recommend a select number of the best new developments to our members.”
She adds: “The work to create a new higher education and cultural district on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park is a clear signal that Stratford will become a residential district favoured by investors.”
In addition to UCL, University of the Arts London’s 32,000m2 site will bring together London College of Fashion’s 6,500 students and staff for the first time in the institution’s 100-year history. The new campus will include two major research centres focusing on sustainability and innovation in the fashion industry and provide widespread access to advanced fashion technology, business incubators and a changing programme of public exhibitions.
Exhibitions will also be a focus for V&A E20, which will occupy a 20,000m2 site that will include the first dedicated museum space in the UK to document the full breadth of digital design.
V&A director Martin Roth explained: “The education and cultural district planned for the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has the potential to be one of the most exciting and important developments of our time. Our aim is to create a new model for museums of the future, where reserve collections and archives are visible and accessible all of the time, and the public can really be engaged with their national collections.”
His views were echoed by Alistair Spalding CBE, chief executive and artistic director of Sadler’s Wells, which is coming on board to create a 7,000m2 venue with a 600-seat dance theatre to complement its existing venues cementing London’s position as one of the world’s greatest centres for dance. The new venue will provide flexible spaces for research and development plus a Choreographic School and a Hip Hop Academy.
Spalding commented: “We are very excited by the unique opportunity this project offers for collaboration with the V&A, UAL and UCL. The new space will significantly enhance our long-held aims of supporting the research, development and making of new work, and nurturing new talent, which is vital for the future of any art form. It is fantastic that the plans for culture and education to be at the heart of the regeneration of the area, can now be realised.”