Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Stratford High Street

Stratford’s Olympic legacy is already taking shape, but it is a bleak vision that is unlikely to benefit locals.
All eyes were on east London last week, as Westfield Stratford City finally opened to teeming crowds of shoppers, eagerly lined up to charge across the 1,600-tonne Corten-steel bridge and breach the glittering golden wrapping of the largest urban mall in Europe.
They were here to experience the first tangible part of London’s Olympic “legacy”: a sprawling complex of 300 shops, 70 restaurants and a 17-screen multiplex cinema, as well as the city’s biggest casino. Many thousands more will be doing the same next summer. For 70% of visitors, this will be the official gateway to the 2012 Olympics. It is also one of the reasons the games could happen here in the first place. It is no small coincidence that Westfield was recently announced as an official sponsor: without its £1.45 billion of private investment in this unpromising location, the Olympic dream might well have remained just that.
Yet just a few hundred metres down Stratford High Street — the misleading name for what is in fact the roaring six-lane dual carriageway of the A11 — several other gateways to the games have been emerging, largely unnoticed. While the world waits with baited breath to see what the official Olympic legacy will look like — a gleaming new city quarter of 8,000 new homes on the verdant doorstep of the Queen Elizabeth Park — few realise that it is already well under way in Stratford, and has been for some time. In fact, more than 3,000 units are already climbing out of the ground....
Read the full article here
Orginally published in BD, 21 September 2011