I spotted an interesting planning application on the council’s website this week. The Broad Street Mall is proposing a temporary development of small shops and cafes built out of recycled shipping containers. It’s certainly a change of tack for the shopping centre, which has drifted off course in recent years.
If I’ve correctly fathomed out their designs, it appears that a total of 14 shipping containers will be salvaged. Two of them look to be chopped in half making a total of 16 individual units. There is a layout of seven units on a ground floor, with the same again above it. A rooftop venue then uses a final two containers, one for a bar and another with its side removed becomes a stage.
These are not unchartered waters – this idea has been done before. Boxpark is a concept with working sites in Shoreditch and Croydon. It would appear there are plenty of examples out there of similarly ingenious reuse of these containers, including as shops and restaurants. Reading has its own precedent in the Biscuit Tin cafe at Station Hill, which has been running successfully for over a year.
The location for the “urban market” will be adjacent to Reading’s existing market (which sadly almost deserves its own inverted commas these days) on Hosier Street. The developer’s own plans are somewhat all at sea, struggling to spell ‘Hosier’, as well as getting confused about who occupies their existing shops – Tk Maxx is actually where they’ve marked Argos (which closed earlier in the year). But assuming the pertinent part of the diagram is shipshape then the site they’re developing is the disused and scruffy area outside 99p Stores beside the existing southern entrance to the mall.
I expect many of you will share my hope that this initiative could provide a boost for independent retailing in Reading, perhaps providing something of an incubator for new businesses that might progress to larger units. With a brand new chain shopping mall about to drop anchor in Bracknell, now could be the opportune moment for Reading to broaden its offer and compete for those shoppers.
The planning document talks of a temporary 5 year lifespan for the scheme. That gives me heart that maybe the new owners of Broad St Mall have bigger and better plans for the site, which I’ve previously suggested needs a more serious investment of a couple of hundred million pounds (or 1 Neymar as it’s now called) for a complete rebuild with open streets. However, I fear they might just want to plonk a few storeys of flats on the roof – I really hope knot (ouch!).
Anyhow, for the time-being at least the owners should be congratulated for pushing the boat out with some innovative thinking. If it’s going to smarten up the area, and bring a trendy new concept to Reading then I think we should all get onboard with that.
What do you think of the idea? Your thoughts, as always, are very welcome and can be left without registering…Follow @readingonthames