The culture mile

22 October 2019

The City of London Corporation (the local municipality with responsibility for London’s prime banking and insurance district) is the UK’s fourth biggest sponsor of the arts.  In order to promote its arts agenda and to bring focus to its support for sector, the Corporation has launched ‘The Culture Mile’.  Our London Real Estate Director, David King, enjoyed an exclusive one-to-one interview with David Bianco, Culture Mile Property Director.

david king & david blanco

The Culture Mile runs east-west along the City’s northern boundary from Smithfield Market in Farringdon to Moorgate.  This area already houses the Barbican Centre, which is a performing arts centre in the Barbican Estate of the City of London and the largest of its kind in Europe. The Centre hosts classical and contemporary music concerts, theatre performances, film screenings and art exhibitions. It also houses a library, three restaurants, and a conservatory.  The Barbican is home to the London Symphony Orchestra, whose Music Director is Sir Simon Rattle, the world-famous conductor.

Mr Bianco explained that the Corporation has three major real estate initiatives for the Culture Mile.  By the time all these initiatives are completed, the Corporation expects visitor numbers to have doubled.

Firstly, it is seeking to move The Museum of London into much larger premises within the vacant element of Smithfield Market.  The plans are well advanced and Mr Bianco is hopeful that a detailed planning application will be submitted by the end of the year – as the Corporation is responsible for planning matters, this should simply be procedural.  If all goes to plan, the Corporation hopes that the new museum will open by the end of 2024. 

Once this project is completed, the Corporation would like to demolish the existing museum and build a new centre for music in its place.  Plans have been drawn up and it is hoped that the centre will provide a new, enlarged home for the London Symphony Orchestra – it cannot play 25% of its repertoire because its current home is too small.

Thirdly, Mr Bianco described how the Corporation has acquired a large site to the east of London where it would like to relocate the three food markets – including the meat market currently housed in Smithfield Market.  This would free up the market for refurbishment and conversion – the Corporation is just starting to consider how this huge site could be used.  This summer, the Corporation ran two competitions; one to find a public realm advisor for the new museum and Mr Bianco explained that there are many hurdles to jump and that any move will require an act of Parliament; when pressed on timing, Mr Bianco thought 5 to 15 years would be likely.

This northern City strip will gain a major boost when Crossrail opens in 2020/21.  Mr Bianco illustrated how the Corporation is focusing large scale office development around the two Liverpool Street station entrances, whilst promoting cultural activities around the Farringdon station. 

Following successful festivals this year, the Corporation is creating a range of free events to increase visibility and participation on the Culture Mile.  Mr Bianco is keen to encourage artists and creatives to relocate to the Culture Mile and Consulco looks forward to working with the Corporation to bring these occupiers to the area.

Consulco spotted this area of opportunity in 2015 and has focused its recent acquisitions around Farringdon and the Culture Mile.  Three of Sparta’s five investments are located in the heart of this property hot-spot.