Merton is an outer London Borough where high streets play a particularly important role in providing employment, culture and places for people to meet. At the same time, online shopping accounts for an increasing proportion of transactions in the UK and town centres which rely heavily on retail are struggling.
JKA were commissioned by Merton Council in 2016 to address the decline of Morden town centre and, in the process, establish a benchmark for the rejuvenation of high streets across the borough. There were three complementary components to our approach:
Improvement works to nearly 40 shops and building façades, including a grand art-deco terrace at a key gateway location in Morden, set a highly visible precedent for what can be achieved through investment in existing assets and businesses.
The conversion of a disused bank into Crown House Creative, an events and exhibition space, brought a new audience and purpose to the high street, increasing foot-fall and extending opening hours.
Finally, a new design guide is helping to raise the standard of shop fronts and signs across the borough by empowering individuals to make the right design decisions. It includes innovative digital tools which auto-generate compliant planning application drawings for standard alterations to shops and signs.
The project has stimulated dialogue between stakeholders including local arts organisations, businesses, residents and Council departments about the future of their high street in an area of London that will be subject to large-scale regenerative change. Its success lies in the careful co-ordination between individual requirements and an urban-scale vision, between conservation priorities and contemporary business needs. A good balance between these apparently conflicting parameters has transformed the appearance of the town centre, is helping retailers to stay competitive and has sown the seeds for new cultural and creative activities that will shape the future of the high street.