Regeneration Of The Projects And Olympic Park As A Legacy

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 Was their initiative really for the locals?

Regeneration is a noun often used to as a profit marketing strategy towards urban development projects as it makes a development appear more sustainable and positive. When regeneration is associated with projects, it automatically gives the impression to the viewer, the area being regenerated has had a prosperous past, but this is not always the case. In order to regenerate an area, urban issues need to be solved with social, environmental and economic means but for the area to qualify, it would have to be severely deprived to begin with.

Regeneration plans are often associated with events. When a city obtains means to hold major worldwide events or festivals, development teams often look for degenerated areas to rehabilitate. Robert Smith, in his 2002 article, compared the correlation between events and regeneration and suggested the combination of both is beneficial for the neighborhood and the economy. The blend of both provides new means of strengthening and diversifying existing economy, by providing new housing schemes, employment opportunities, environment rehabilitation and new health and education initiatives. Festivities provide architecture teams a short time to address objectives while regeneration is more long term. The two go hand in hand as it provides an area to host historical events and when finished, will hold a legacy. The 2012 London Olympic Games is an example of this.

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Is the Olympic Park really a legacy for East London to uphold?

The noun legacy is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as being ‘something handed down by a predecessor’. This suggests a negative connotation as a hand down is often perceived as being a demoted acquisition from a higher individual. Relating this to Stratford, this could be referred to the aftermath of the Games, as the vacant park was left for the neighborhood for them to integrate into their cultural identity and livelihood. Although the park was completely transformed to facilitate the community, by developing the Athlete’s Village into thousands of homes, new green spaces and a developed transport link, many raised questions on whether the regeneration initiatives better well with the local community’s characteristics.

The Olympic Village – turning an athlete’s ‘hotel’ into affordable housing

The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) was formed to run the Olympic park development. One of the sites to develop was the Olympic Village that accommodated athletes, coaches and staff during the games. The village was given to two companies: Triathlon Homes and Get Living London. Both developed the site into housing but with different intentions. Triathlon Homes was given 1379 spaces to accommodate locals with affordable housing, while Get Living London 1479 spaces were intended for the private sector. Graeme Evans (Scholar) issued a paper in 2016 about Host cities and Olympic Games. He suggested housing which is deemed as affordable to fit social needs ‘is a public policy myth’. He made this statement because of previous history of Athlete Villages not upholding the promises they specified in development. This also includes London 2012. In 2014, it was confirmed the Village would be designed for private renting (52%) and the rest for shared ownership (48%). The affordable housing schemes which was designed for the local residents of Stratford was replaced with the new concept social renting. This was intended to be a more affordable rate for locals with no short contracts, with spaces being allocated by Newham council by reasonable preference, preferably middle-income households. When addressing market prices, the vast difference of median household incomes and rent prices was considerable despised by local residents. The median incomes in Stratford is £29,000 although a two bedroom property in the Village required a minimum salary of £48,000. This evidently shows the contradictions of the project. Low income households prior to the games could not afford new housing with many forced to leave the area and reside elsewhere. This is a complete contradiction of the entire ethos of the proposal as campaigns were heavily induced with history and retaining cultural identity, but how is that conceivable when the neighborhood which is the true legacy of Stratford are forced to leave and move elsewhere, taking their background and identity with them? This give the impression the entire regeneration project was a façade of false confidence to local residents in order to capture the area from them in order to create a more successful economic environment designed for the new generation of money-thriving individuals – the millennials.

Evidently, gentrification needed to happen in Stratford, environmentally and economically. Socially, I believe it was a failure for the former community. Forced to be rehoused, more than 60% of residents were moved out of East London, with their rent doubling or even tripling in price. Many inhabitants did not go through with further education, therefore many struggled to comprehend with the new changes. The rhetoric from rehousing organizations contradicted the importance of prior residents by stating the entire area was an industrial wasteland. I highly disagree with this. The entire Olympic Park project eradicated historic districts, rivers, roads, housing and jobs. The completed development feels alienated from the rest of the area with many original estates such as the Clays Lane Peabody Estate, demolished for the new construction, eradicating identity and proving the loss of cultural identity of Stratford.

Mixed Use Developments

A building would have more than one usage in a small, highly dense area whether that would be cultural, residential, industrial and/or commercial. An example of a mixed use development, a skyscraper with a hotel, a shopping mall, residential homes and some office space. This new concept benefits everyone involved from the developers and leasing agents to the residential tenants. Many domestic inhabitants are highly encouraged to use and be employed by the rest of the facilities. Mixed use developments encourage pedestrian friendly environments and are motivated in housing single and families. Mixed use developments are heavily integrated in poverty deprived areas as families are consumers for recreational services while also fuelling the local economy as profits can be turned towards the further regeneration of the area. Because of the usage of a fairly dense area, it is suggested the original area will not be affected by demolishment and will not disadvantage local residents prior to construction. I believe this is a sufficient way of regeneration and implements and focuses more on the needs of the local community rather than gentrification, as gentrification is a hidden way of eradicate them. The local community stays put and reaps the benefits of having a mixed use development in the area where the development can be easily integrated into the already rich culture and identity of the place rather than hindering it or even destroying it completely.

Northfield Village, Stafford Case Study

Stafford is a county town of Staffordshire, England, in the West Midlands. The town needed dire regeneration as of form of creating and housing low-income and vulnerable residents of the town. Because of the aging population, the community was in need for changes with a range of care facilities and accommodation. Northfield Village is a mixed-use development project, situated on the edge of the town center designed to facilitate low income households and offer a variety of services such as day centers for disabilities and storage warehouses which were all open for the residents and the community. The project was designed to be integrated into the existing community’s life and be added to their cultural identity as a user. The development consists of over 100 housing units, a health center with a surgery and pharmacy and an energy center. It also contains a community hub where the spaces include many communal services such as restaurants and bars and a hairdresser.

The main strength of this project is the mixed-use style which is sending better outcomes than would have been possible with schemes on different locations. This includes the delivery of higher quality residential abodes that would have been only possible with private provision alone. In addition, a strategic method to delivering services and housing together means that a wider range of outcomes can be considered together. Investment from multiple associates can be used to create a mixture of funding that maximizes the variety of outcomes from available funds. The emphasis of the project is not just delivering housing units but ensuring that a range of susceptible people are able to access improved accommodation and live more satisfied lives.

A second strength is that the development has developed from a clear vision and wider strategic approach which seeks to meet the needs of the residential community. This type of vision enables a long-term view to be taken. It enables the project to be flexible in a changing political and economic environment. The vision creates a rich goal for the project but allows flexibility on how and where it is delivered. Partnerships built up through the project are a major strength. Effective working between different partners provides access to a broad range of skills and resources.

Can Mixed use developments be the savior for social means?

The regeneration of Stafford has had a much rather positive effect than Stratford. Stafford architectural teams solely focused on the needs of the society which was already there while also having a holistic approach in regard to design. Stratford on the other hand, implemented more of an atomistic approach, focusing on local residents and housing separately, consequently having more of a disastrous effect to the community. Instead of having a more individual approach in regard to architecture, if Stratford implemented mixed use developments into the project and not create a vast amount of buildings, I believe the response of the community would have been much better. A lot of existing housing would have been retained and many residents would have not been made homeless and allocated elsewhere. By distributing residents all over London, it creates a domino effect as the government, while regenerating an area for economic prosperity, is putting many low-income households in other areas, degenerating those areas as they cannot keep up financially and socially. By doing this, you are stripping oneself of their identity. I believe gentrification is in no means a good idea for redevelopment schemes. For economical gains, displacing inhabitants from their homes and from areas they have lived their entire lives is an unethical decision and completely callous to do. People take pride in their homes as it provides a sense of security and establishes a way of thinking. Culture is embedded in our everyday lives and should remain so. Especially in London. 


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