Through the early morning fog you see
LOOKING back over previous commentaries, the last one on Regeneration was “Talkin’ ‘bout our ‘Generation” on Jan 29, 2016 - over 18 months ago. At the time, the revised planning application had created significant irritation around the borough, and the strongly critical commentary reflected this – creating significant irritation around Shute End (allegedly).
Subsequent meetings with the then minister for regeneration and the programme manager were informative but didn’t trigger a positive piece. The positive spark of creativity didn’t … spark.
Until last Friday – when the programme manager offered to demonstrate the progress around the Peach Place bit of Regeneration.
Visions of the things to be …
The heavy mist made it hard to see Peach Place from halfway down Denmark Street. Even the town hall was indistinct, so it was time to mix in some imagination and see what the future’s going to bring.
Gone was the boring old 60s arcade, in its place was a sweeping curve of new shops. It turns out someone had paid attention to the public’s feedback because it wasn’t all uniform either. Instead there’s a mix of frontages which, while they don’t match the old architecture, do bring a modern twist on the chop and change of town centre frontages.
Looking at the colourful blue hoardings in Peach Street and round into Market Place, they’ve got lots of pictures on them, so that you can see what it’s going to look like.
… Development is painless
One of the steps the project team took early on was to advertise when work would start. The adverts also helped everyone understand that while the demolition and main construction works were going on, the adjacent pavement would be closed to make sure nobody got brained by any falling debris, bricks etc.
For the curious though, you can walk on past the Bradbury Centre’s front doors and look through the netting and wire mesh fencing to see what’s going on during development.
Eventually, this’ll be the exit for the early morning commercial deliveries, making Peach Place traffic-free for the remains of the day, so that everyone can safely enjoy shopping and refreshments there.
It brings on many changes
Because things are the way they are, they won’t stay the same. It seems that change is the only constant and it’s our ability to cope with it that drives our feelings.
If it’s done well, making the best use of the plaza at its heart, Peach Place can become as active a setting as Les Deux Magots in Paris.
This developed a reputation as the early
20th century’s rendezvous of the literary and intellectual élite of the city, including Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and the young Ernest Hemingway. Today it attracts tourists, who might then go on to shop at either Louis Vuitton or Burberry, both just a few yards away.
Further back in time for diners, the coffee houses in 17th and 18th century London were the preferred meeting places for writers and socialites, also the centre for much political and commercial activity.
One such example was Lloyd’s Coffee House, opened by Edward Lloyd in 1686 on Tower Street in the City.
It was popular with merchants and shipowners, so Mr Lloyd catered to them with reliable shipping news.
Today Lloyds of London is a major financial institution known globally and, with a turnover of just under £30 billion per year, is among the top 20 insurance companies in the world.
And all from chatting over a coffee.
So when Peach Place gets going, it might just become the new destination location for Wokingham – to relax, meet friends or talk business.
There’s the potential for the new developments to do for Wokingham what the two Magots did for Paris or what Edward Lloyd did for London.
And you can take or leave it if you please
By the time the tour was over, the sun was out and the fog had disappeared. As had the imagination.
Perhaps your imagination might benefit from some refreshment ? If so, there’s a bottle of good wine as a prize for the best email naming and decoding this week’s cultural gags.