• GUEST BLOG: The new Lexicon Bracknell – A future blueprint for revitalising town centres

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    With Prosper as Lexicon’s Retail Design Delivery partner, Director Linda Tait previews this innovative new scheme ahead of its opening on 7th September to explain its success and significance for the future of retail…

    Bracknell is the first post-war ‘New Town’ to be comprehensively demolished and rebuilt, making it one of the UK’s largest urban regeneration schemes. A key element in this ambitious project is the Lexicon, a £240m, 580,000ft² retail and leisure development revitalizing over 60% of Bracknell’s town centre.

    Bracknell’s background

    Until recently, Bracknell town centre was an ugly mass of Brutalist concrete from its 1950s origins as one of first post-war New Towns, built to house 25,000 residents.

    While Bracknell’s catchment area soared to nearly 1 million people, its commercial centre remained in decline – the grey concrete a decaying eyesore that retailers and shoppers had deserted.

    The Berkshire town lacked appealing retail and leisure to attract shoppers from the affluent surrounding areas.

    Radical remodelling

    To address this, the Bracknell Regeneration Partnership was formed – a collaboration between Bracknell Forest Council and investors Schroder UK Real Estate Fund and Legal & General Capital – who proposed a radical remodelling of the whole town.

    The first phase delivered a new Waitrose supermarket in 2011, to assert the town’s potential to retailers and shoppers.

    Knitting old with new

    Much of the existing centre was then demolished to make way for 70 new shops and restaurants though some historical buildings were upgraded to knit cohesively into the new scheme.

    The Bull Pub – a listed 14th century local landmark – has been restored and given a contemporary extension, to form the centrepiece of a new town square. The original high street also remains but with upgraded retail facias to fit Lexicon’s new theme.

    Creating character and cohesion

    The Lexicon’s layout forms a basic figure of 8 with linked blocks and key avenues, each having their own character. The blocks vary in colour and cladding style, a deliberate design feature to echo the character of a traditional high street.

    Shared town assets such as lighting, green space and meeting areas – now largely under single ownership – also aid coherence and enhance the scheme.

    Integrated yet individual

    The individual units all feature highly glazed facades to bring a light, contemporary feel and coherence, yet still allow brands to express their individuality. Nando’s restaurant is a standout example, where layers of fretwork and greenery customise its facade and add brand personality.

    This was an integral part of Prosper’s role delivering the Retail Design. Acting as ambassadors for the Lexicon, Prosper helped retailers to harmonise with the scheme while also delivering to their fullest potential. We also enabled good relationships between tenants and landlords, smoothing the approval process to ensure a good experience.

    A lighter, greener feel

    Overall Bracknell’s new aesthetic is much lighter and softer, contrasting the dense grey of its predecessor. Ample use of timber adds texture and a natural feel.

    The concept of ‘bringing the forest to Bracknell’ is also key, with lots of greenery incorporated, including Europe’s largest green wall, plus nature inspired art showcasing the local flora and fauna.

    Lighting solutions throughout add interest and ambience in the evening. On one wall of anchor retailer Fenwick, cut fretwork panels with lighting behind form a striking sculptural feature.

    A day to night destination for all weathers

    Being an open street scheme that’s not closed at night like a mall, there’s an authentic town centre feel that’s more pleasant to spend time in. This also helps to revive the town’s evening economy.

    Just as there’s a trend to incorporate more dining and entertainment in traditional malls, leisure facilities are intrinsic here too. Eagle Lane is the main dining street, featuring popular restaurants such as Carluccio’s, Prezzo and Pizza Express with outdoor space for alfresco dining. The street leads to a 12-screen Cineworld, the only 4DX cinema in the Thames Valley.

    To create a more all-weather destination, diamond-shaped glazing panels create elegant arcades covering some streets, while other units have high level canopies for shelter without enclosing the space.

    More reasons to stay

    Open public spaces are also crucial to create a thriving community, so each intersection has dwell areas featuring seating and soft landscaping. These can host exciting arts and entertainment events in the future to drive continued interest.

    With the completion of the Lexicon this autumn, Bracknell now has a diverse mix of appealing retail and leisure, as well as services, some residential and communal spaces, to attract people back into their local centre.

    A blueprint for future town centres

    That’s why Lexicon Bracknell is an exemplar scheme and will prove significant in inspiring future ideas on revitalizing other town centres in a desolate state.

    It goes well beyond the realms of retail, providing a more cohesive solution to breathe new life into tired towns.

    If you’d like to find out more about Prosper’s Retail Design Delivery service and how they help landlords create thriving retail destinations by maintaining standards in their commercial centres, please get in touch via hello@madebyprosper.com or by calling 01582 460990.

    AUTHOR

    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien

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