Elephant Park – what’s going on in one of the …
Its demolition and transformation has been a long-standing and controversial saga, with some seeing it as the ultimate sign of social cleansing – with poorer citizens and small businesses being kicked out to make way for something more friendly to young professionals. and the hipsters – while the supporters argue it is essential to improve the region.
A short walk from the train station and the mall’s gigantic demolition site is Elephant Park, where another large regeneration project is underway thanks to famous development company Lendlease.
A few weeks ago, PIT was invited on a tour of the area to understand what Elephant Park does differently and what locals and residents can expect once the project is fully completed.
A new community
Before heading to the Lendlease offices to begin the tour, the PIT team stops by first Castle Square – a small Boxpark type shopping and food area with a fantastic range of independent boutiques, cafes and food stores on three floors.
The timber-style structure, home to 26 local merchants, is just one minute from the Elephant & Castle station rail arch and just five minutes from the tube. Sitting at the top of the castle square is the emblematic statue of the elephant and the castle, which previously took pride of place outside the mall and was unveiled in its new home – accompanied by a big party hosted by locals – in June this year.
The outlets offered reflect the fantastic diversity of the region, which has long been home to large populations of Latin and South America, the Caribbean and West Africa, among others. There is everything from El Guambra (a family restaurant offering Ecuadorian cuisine) and Daddy O’s (African dishes) to La Bodeguita (traditional Colombian) and Original Caribbean Spice (specialists in Caribbean dishes, including jerk chicken and la oxtail and legendary Caribbean punch makers).
Castle Square is also home to hair salons, clothing and fashion stores, repair shops, and a grocery store, providing locals with a great place to eat lunch, have their hair cut, or fix their phones.
After some considerable difficulty in deciding, we finally opted for Kaieteur Kitchen, expert in Caribbean flavors. Faye Gomes has been making Guyana’s most popular dishes since 2003, including ‘Pepper’ served with Spanish rice, and her cuisine offers a variety of homemade dishes including oxtail, okra, fish, chicken curry and fried chicken, all served with large mounds of spinach and plantain rice. We’re also treated to a delicious free Caribbean punch while we wait for our orders to be cooked fresh.
“We’ve been here for almost a year now,” Gomes tells us. “It’s great, but we need the board to tell more people about us. People don’t know we are here. They need signs at the station, at the metro, to tell visitors about us, so that they can find us here.
After a very hearty meal washed down with a delicious mango punch, eaten in the public lounge area just outside Castle Square, we make our way quietly to the offices of Lendlease Elephant Park and quickly get a first glimpse of the area. – a large central park, full of greenery, sandboxes and play areas, surrounded on all sides by buildings and construction works.
The day we are visiting is cloudy but relatively warm, and many children enjoy the park in the afternoon of the week before returning to school. Just to the right of the offices are a variety of apartment buildings with commercial use downstairs. One of them is already occupied by Four Quarters, a favorite haunt for gamers and those nostalgic for the arcade games of the ’80s and’ 90s (think Pacman, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mario Kart), while the others sites are ready to be occupied soon.
In the office, we meet Kristy Lansdown – Lendlease Project Manager for Elephant Park – and Harriet Sutton, Senior Communications Manager at Lendlease Europe, who give us a tour of the current program.
What does Elephant Park include?
It is described as a new residential and commercial area for South London, offering the convenience of living in Zone 1.
It is centered around a new park and aims to unite “creative independents, inventive local traders from the far corners of the world and street gems alongside a spirit of fun and adventure”.
When complete in 2025, it is expected that Elephant Park will offer 3,000 new homes across a range of tenures, from build to rent to sell. There will also be space for over 50 new stores, restaurants and cafes, and the planting of over 1,200 new trees.
Located east of Walworth Road, the project is designed to breathe ‘new life into this historic district’ and create ‘thousands of new high quality homes, jobs, business opportunities and green spaces for Londoners’ .
One of the most impressive areas of the project, crucially open to the public, is a spectacular water play area hewn from natural stone, which launched in June 2021. Elephant Springs is a landscape of natural stone and water. water that includes waterfalls, rippling slides, sandy bays and mood lighting.
It aims to be a place of rest, relaxation, play and fun for all, and was built entirely from 600 colored porphyry stone slabs, sourced from a quarry in the Albiano region of Italy. Water gushes naturally from the rock formations of Elephant Springs and the stones blend seamlessly into the surrounding landscape.
Sustainability at the forefront
Elephant Park has long focused on sustainability and its green credentials to distinguish it from other major new developments. But what does this mean in practice?
With Elephant Park, Lendlease’s ambition has always been to set new standards for sustainable urban development, and it aims to be the first climate-positive development by 2025. This would make it one of the urban regeneration projects. most durable in the world.
To do this, he says he’s working closely with an array of sustainable businesses to elevate one of the daily anxieties of residents and visitors – allowing them to live guilt-free and environmentally responsible lives.
Particularly important was the reduction of waste during the Elephant Park construction process, as this part of the process is usually a big emitter of carbon. It says 98% of the waste generated during construction is collected and diverted from landfills, while Elephant Park has conserved more than 120 mature trees in the area and planted 1,300 new ones, helping to mitigate climate change and pollution. air.
Elephant Park has set itself the goal of being an operating net zero carbon community by 2025, eventually achieving absolute zero carbon, ranges 1, 2 and 3, by 2040.
Meanwhile, public spaces are lit using renewable energy and, when completed, there are expected to be over 90 new bike rental bicycles, over 3,000 bicycle stalls and new pedestrian and pedestrian routes. cycling. Charging ports dedicated to electric vehicles will also be available.
Kristy and Harriet take us in the direction of one of Elephant Park’s USPs, its Energy Hub, which includes a combined heat and power plant that will provide low-grade heat and hot water. carbon to residents and businesses of Elephant Park. It will also have the ability to connect to 1,000 other households in the Elephant & Castle Opportunity Zone.
The Energy Center is central to Lendlease’s ambition to make Elephant Park one of the most sustainable urban regeneration projects in the world, and also serves as a community place with integrated uses such as a cafe and nursery. .
It may seem like a strange paradox to have one of the world’s most sustainable developments in the heart of London, very close to one of the capital’s busiest and noisiest junctions, but it arguably makes Elephant Park even more important to offset the pollution and environmental damage caused by the cars, taxis and buses running daily in Elephant & Castle.
And, thankfully, much of the noise and chaos of the crossroads gets lost in and around the areas where the project is taking place. There is construction going on for the next leg of Elephant Park and the main work happening at the mall, but these aren’t too much of a problem overall.
Providing a new home for local merchants
One of the most controversial aspects of the mall’s demolition was the question of where the traders who had operated there for years would be relocated.
One location for some of the food retailers has been Sayer Street, which is part of the program’s more than 100,000 square feet of retail, entertainment and affordable space. The narrow road to the left of the central park is home to restaurants like Bobo Social, Koi Ramen Bar, Tasty Jerk, Pot & Rice, Miko’s, and the zero-plastic Italian restaurant SUGO.
Even on a Thursday afternoon in late summer, after lunch and before dinner begins, it is bustling and bustling with people having their meals al fresco.
The final part of the tour sees us meet again by The Tap In – a sports bar and quirky bottle shop that has managed to thrive despite the pandemic – and the MMY Elephant Park, a link between Elephant Park and the modern market giant. Mercato Metropolitano for offers a market / grocery store offering artisan groceries, fresh pasta, authentic dim sum, Italian ice cream and local farm meat. This fall, Mercato will open its urban production center in Elephant Park – “a unique and immersive dining experience where locals and visitors can meet its producers and taste deliciously fresh produce”.
There may still be issues around affordability and accessibility in projects like Elephant Park – and the dilemma of how to regenerate without evicting local residents and poorer communities will continue to rage. But from a sustainability standpoint, and in terms of keeping the region’s history in mind when building it, Lendlease seems to be right with Elephant Park.
Whether it can claim to be one of the most sustainable programs in the world will probably only become clearer when it comes to a complete end in 2025, but any program that strongly pushes for sustainability is welcome in tackling the climate crisis. .