During our two-week August holiday the news broke about the start of work to demolish Reading’s Garrard Street car park, a significant step forward for the Station Hill scheme.
Although there was a major clue in that the car park was covered in scaffolding weeks earlier, it is a visual reminder that this scheme is now under way and the near 20-year wait is behind us.
It’s been hard to understand why a development outside a modern railway station, on both the Elizabeth Line and the Great Western Mainline, and just 25 minutes from London, could have had such a troubled history.
David Jones, in his thoughts on the high street, alludes to the single ownership situation where a redevelopment can be better completed by there being just one landlord, rather than a number with different interests.
Which appears to make Station Hill even more exceptional. It was only ever in one ownership, albeit four different ones if you include Land Securities which sold it to Sir John Madejski’s Sackville Properties.
Although there must have been a colossal waste of resources over the years, had it gone ahead earlier there could be empty offices and units created for retail left vacant by now.
The site has long been an eyesore but a newly-build eyesore would not have served much purpose.
At one time the ground floor of the Garrard Street car park was due to become a retail area. Filling those units might have proved a particular challenge either mid or post-pandemic.
But Lincoln MGT is a joint venture which has been champing at the bit to build its vision of Station Hill.
And when people start to see the vast One Station Hill office building, designed to an incredible standard, appearing next to hundreds of homes, some of which will accommodate the people working in the offices, they will surely draw inspiration from it.
The developer has long told us that other future schemes in Reading may be inspired Station Hill.
If that proves to be true its success will be hard to calculate, but it would go some way towards making up for all the years of nothing happening.
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