Merton is an outer London Borough where high streets and town centres play a particularly important role in providing employment, culture and places for people to meet. Online shopping is taking up an increasing proportion of retail transactions in the UK and town centres and high streets relying heavily on retail are struggling.
JKA were commissioned by Merton Council in 2016 to address the decline of a key local town centre with the aim of setting a precedent that could inform a borough-wide strategy. This objective was addressed through three complementary project strands.
Improvement works to nearly 40 shops and building facades including a grand art-deco terrace at a key gateway location in Morden transformed the physical appearance of the town centre, setting a very visible precedent of what can be achieved through investment in existing assets and businesses.
The conversion of a disused bank chambers into a creative events and exhibition space, Crown House Creative brought a new audience and purpose to the high street, increasing foot-fall and extending opening hours.
A shopfront design guide is helping to raise the standard of shopfronts and signs across the borough by empowering individuals to make the right design decisions and providing a digital tool that auto-generates compliant planning application drawings for standard alterations to shops and signs.
The project has instigated dialogue between stakeholders including local arts organisations, businesses, residents and various Council teams about the future of their high street in an area of London that is subject to large-scale regenerative change. Its’ success lies in the careful co-ordination between individual requirements and an urban-scale vision, conservation priorities and contemporary business needs. A good balance between these apparently conflicting parameters has brought about a project that has transformed the appearance of the town centre, is helping retailers to maintain competitive in a challenging market and has sown the seeds for new, cultural and creative activities to help shape the future of the high street.