Tuesday, April 1, 2008

More Corporate seizure of open space

An article in the Guardian notes how massive redevelopment seems to target areas favoured by alternative shops and people.

Cities for sale
Guardian, Saturday March 29 2008
Paul Kingsnorth

Liverpool - Architecturally, the Paradise Project will certainly be an improvement on what went before: something the city council, and the developer it is working with, is trumpeting from the roof-tops. What they are less keen to trumpet is that Paradise requires the first privatisation of a city centre anywhere in England.
Liverpool city council has sanctioned the corporate enclosure of the 42-acre city-centre site, which encompasses 34 streets and a public park. The development company Grosvenor, owned by the Duke of Westminster, the country's third-richest man, has been given a 250-year lease on this area. Grosvenor, with the enthusiastic blessing of the council, is putting into practice the kind of massive, consumer-focused re-engineering of the landscape previously seen only in private malls such as Bluewater...

The thing that bothers Don, apart from the Paradise Project itself, is that
no one else in Liverpool seems to care. Perhaps no one in Liverpool: Don is from
Manchester. About the only other significant opposition to the Paradise Project
comes from the place where we're headed now - Quiggins.
Quiggins is a three-storey shopping centre. A Liverpool institution, it's a chaos of clothes shops for teenage goths, secondhand clothes, furniture and books. It's about to be demolished to make way for Paradise. Quiggins' founders, brothers John and
Peter Tierney, set up the centre 18 years ago as a conscious attempt to keep alternative culture alive in an increasingly corporate city centre. They kept
rents deliberately low, and provided a space for creative talent to flourish.
The city council says it will find Quiggins another home, but the brothers are
not satisfied. "Quiggins is committed to Liverpool's cultural industry and has
been since its formation..." they write on their website. "It houses 45 local businesses, employing 25 local people, all helping to recycle within our local
economy." It doesn't matter much what the brothers say, though. Quiggins has
already had a compulsory purchase order issued against it.
In the noisy, wholefood cafe on Quiggins' third floor, Don and I sit down to talk. "It took me a long time, and a lot of correspondence with the developers and the council, before they finally admitted what was happening with this project," he says.
"There was a very low-key public announcement - you had to know where to look to
find it - that they were removing the rights of way from 33 streets in the city
centre. It took a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, but I finally got them to admit to
me that they were replacing these rights of way with something called 'public
realm agreements.' " He looks at me with raised eyebrows.
"Well, I'd never heard of these things, so I kept pressing them, and it turned out that these 'public realm agreements' would give the public very limited access to the
streets, on Grosvenor's terms." They would be within their rights, Don tells me,
to begin access half an hour before the shops opened and end it half an hour
after they closed. There would be nothing to say that they had to allow you in
outside those times. "Remember, these are streets - this is not some private
shopping centre. Yet now you will have no right to use them unless you're
shopping. While the public are winning new rights of access in the countryside,
they're having these rights taken away in towns and cities."

Quiggins was the Liverepool equivalent of Camden and the Leeds Corn Exchange both recently "improved". There was a massive campaign in Liverpool over its move.

Meanwhile in Camden...

H&M on the High Street, but what’s in store for old market?
Camden New Journal, - 13 Mar 2008

FASHION giant H&M has confirmed it will move into Camden High Street next month, sparking fears its arrival could threaten Camden Town’s vintage market

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