After successfully securing funding for the project from Gravis Capital Partners, construction has begun at the Circus Street site that promises to deliver a new retail and leisure destination for the city.
The scheme will revitalise a once-loved pillar of community, inject £200m into the local economy and create 400 jobs.
Brighton has been a vibrant hot-spot in the South East for many years, but as more people migrate to the city for work and leisure, this continues to put a strain on the supply of family homes.
With the funding provided by Gravis Capital Partners, this development project promises deliver “142 new homes, of which 28 will be affordable (20%); 450 student bedrooms; 30,00sq ft of new office space as well as ample space for start-ups to nurture their business”.
The scheme is being delivered as a public-private partnership by the developer U+I and Brighton & Hove City Council. Funders of the scheme include GCP Student Living plc (the UK’s first Real Estate Investment Trust focussed on student residential accommodation) and recently announced Gravis Capital Management Ltd.
Among the planned uses for the developing spaces are new dance studios and a headquarters for South East Dance, expected to attract 70,000 visitors and users a year, new restaurants or shops at ground floor level around a new public square, as well as new teaching and research facilities created for the University of Brighton..
U+I are promising a “new genre” of urban development with green walls, green roofs, 78 new trees and allotments for food growing – producing over 200kg of food per year for residents.
Under the development agreement completed between U+I and the council in August 2017, the developer will deliver all elements of the scheme except for the university building. The majority of buildings will be completed in 2019, with the University of Brighton bringing forward plans for their new building at a later date.
But many will see this project as yet another catalyst that will continue to drive an upward spiral in costs of living in the city. It will come as no surprise to anyone that Brighton and Hove is undergoing another round of development that has seen various areas become increasingly gentrified as the city orientates itself toward a growing tourism industry and inward investment.
Bringing money to the city is, on the surface and by common-sense, a good thing. Local economies can flourish and local residents will see benefit in the upsurge in employment opportunities. But cases of gentrification all across the world are rarely this simple. We need to be asking who will profit from the city’s regeneration, and answers usually point to investors with big pockets that have both eyes firmly on the bottom-line and on a burgeoning bank balance.
Residents of Amsterdam have recently seen rapid shifts in their city. Pieter Voogt, a 22 year local in Amsterdam’s Kinkerbuurt district, told the Guardian this about his experience and understanding of the rapidly shifting sands produced by such ‘regeneration’ projects:
“Here gentrification happens very quickly. Every month some ‘nice’ restaurant or shop opens. The old name of my neighbourhood (Kinkerbuurt) was changed and rebranded to ‘Hallenkwartier’. I would enjoy many of the changes if I knew others could enjoy it as well. But poor people have to leave, social housing is sold off, and rich people and tourists move in.
There was a squatting action, a demonstration and protests against the rebranding of the neighbourhood. I have seen posters and banners on houses. But the city council is just selling off social housing. Waiting time for a house in this neighbourhood used to be eight years, now it is 18 years. The biggest ruling party has even worse plans; they want to give the social houses only to working people, saying jobless people should leave the city. I can’t believe what Amsterdam has become”
Pieter’s experiences are not uncommon, all around the world we are seeing city centres expanding, increasingly accommodating themselves with the interests of large corporations who promise quick cash and shiny storefronts. But the costs of these development projects to the material and symbolic fabric of spaces and communities are not to be ignored. We should be interrogating the intentions of investors with a firm eye on managing and mitigating negative externalities that pose a threat to residents ways of living, and their wallets.