Q&A with Muse’s Simon Dew

With its year as City of Culture 2025 fast approaching and some key projects nearing completion, Bradford is one to watch. Muse, a vastly experienced operator, is invested in two of the city’s most important developments. Development director Simon Dew spoke to Neil Tague.

It has been close to 20 years since Bradford had a new grade A office development. So One City Park, a 56,403 sq ft building being delivered by Caddick Construction for Muse and Bradford Council, is a big deal.

Designed by Sheppard Robson, One City Park will feature a range of green design elements including high-performance glazing, photovoltaic panels and air source heat pumps. Every parking space includes an electric car charging point, coupled with secure cycle storage and changing facilities to encourage active travel. Features of the building include a panoramic roof terrace.

Overlooking the City Park mirror pool, it sits amid some of the city’s finest buildings, and should provide a rallying point for a city looking to pitch an all-encompassing regeneration story.

Sheppard Robson designed the building. Credit: Place North

One City Park is obviously a major project for Bradford. How close to opening the doors are you now, and what will it do for the city?

One City Park is now in its final phase of construction and will be completed by mid-September 2023. It will offer new, high-quality and flexible office space to accommodate not only home-grown companies, but to also attract new occupiers into the city by continuing to demonstrate that the UK’s youngest city, and its entrepreneurial spirit, is an attractive proposition for businesses.

One City Park’s central location and high quality and sustainable design will act as a catalyst for attracting more businesses to this vibrant city – it will showcase what Bradford has to offer and complement other key projects currently being delivered in the city centre, which including NEC Bradford Live, Darley Street Markets and of course, the City Village development.

The 40,000 sq ft Darley Street Market will add momentum to the city on its 2024 opening, Dew said. Credit: Place North

City Village. At this point, what is the broad outline of the scheme, and the expected timeline?

In Bradford City Village, Muse, via its strategic joint venture English Cities Fund – a long-term strategic partnership with Legal & General and Homes England – will be utilising its long track record of delivering complex, area-wide regeneration to deliver a unique, new mixed-used neighbourhood in partnership with Bradford City Council.

The City Village regeneration area incorporates a number of key council ownerships, including the Kirkgate Shopping Centre, Oastler Markets and Chain Street car parks, meaning that close cooperation between Muse and the local authority has been vital.

ECF will work with the council to deliver a shared vision that will see the creation of a green, healthy, sustainable and community-friendly city centre neighbourhood of up to 1,000 homes. By incorporating safer roads, landscaped public spaces and revitalised independent shopping and commercial spaces, Bradford City Village will become a place where people choose to live, work and thrive and where businesses will want to invest, trade and grow.

City Village will set the tone for the district’s ongoing regeneration strategy and will include a high standard of design quality and sustainable development which we expect for residential living in the 21st century.

ECF and Bradford are at the start of the City Village journey and will work in partnership together to explore and shape the key elements for delivery, funding and phasing in the coming months. The aim will be to enter into a development agreement in Q1 2024 and to progress planning and site enabling works later next year.

What are the key elements that people can get excited about?

The design, delivery and long-term vision for this crucial intervention in the city will seek to secure a socially, economically and environmentally sustainable place for residents, businesses and visitors. It will demonstrate positive urban design and act as a catalyst for further investment in improving the buildings, heritage assets, streets and green spaces across Bradford city centre.

Whilst there are many beautiful buildings within the City Village area, many of these are neglected and underused, and the City Village project will act as a catalyst that stimulates the re-use of these assets and brings back vibrancy to this part of the city centre.

However, the scheme goes beyond bricks and mortar to deliver additional value to the city. Key to the success of the City Village area will be the delivery of high-quality public realm and traffic calmed streets to more effectively connect the ‘top of town’ area of Bradford city centre with the retail core around Market Street.

The Kirkgate centre’s removal will open up the city centre, says Dew. Credit: Place North

At present, the 1970s Kirkgate Shopping Centre acts as a significant barrier to connecting these two important areas of the city centre. Its demolition and the subsequent redevelopment and delivery of generous areas of versatile public realm will remove these barriers to connectivity and reinforce the new Darley Street markets development as a significant anchor that will add vibrancy and footfall into the heart of the City Village area.

The council’s recent public realm improvements to North Parade and Rawson Place have provided an early indication of the quality of place that can be achieved around the Oastler Markets and demonstrates the potential this offers, providing a new community with vibrant independent shops, bars and restaurants on their doorstop, close to public transport links.

What would you say are key things here that will be unique to the scheme, or haven’t been explored fully before?

Alongside the masterplanning and delivery work necessary to progress the City Village, ECF will be working closely with our design team and engaging with the wider community to fully understand the housing needs of the city.

It is important that City Village provides a broad range of housing types and tenures that attract a variety of renters, first time buyers and home movers, some of which won’t have previously considered living in the city centre. It’s also important to understand the cultural needs of Bradford from a housing perspective given its diverse population, ensuring that the homes we deliver are as inclusive as possible.

Vital to this will be helping to curate and bring long-term stewardship to these spaces, by engaging with the community to understand their needs and aspirations to create thriving neighbourhoods for the long term.

Can you explain to us how the various projects coming forward in the area will link together, and how that’s going to benefit the city – with this being such a physically large area, how will current vehicle and people movements be affected?

The award to Bradford of the UK City of Culture for 2025 provides an important timeline for bringing these regeneration ambitions to fruition. The City Village proposal is one of a number of council capital investments that are already under way in the city and is an essential component of these plans.

In addition, the council has also commenced delivery of its £40m Transforming Cities Fund project. This will deliver major public realm improvements close to the City Village development area that will reduce traffic and improve active travel in the city centre, further assisting in the creation of the City Village environment.

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