Mira Bar-Hillel (04/06/2012)
We take a look at what benefits and redevelopments the Olympics will actually bring, and, unless you live in Westminster - or maybe East London - it isn't pretty.
There may be many weeks to go before the Olympics, but parts of Central London are already closing until September and things will only get worse – much worse. Road closures are increasing and Transport for London (TfL) is actually advising people to WALK to work, to avoid the public transport system collapsing round our ears. At least they’re not telling us to run to work.
Businesses will suffer greatly as traffic, transport and parking horrors keep customers away and staff unable to turn up. And, while valiant efforts are being made to try and assure us that East London will benefit hugely from the “legacy” of the Games (I am far from persuaded), elsewhere there will be little of nothing to show for it.
I have heard of nothing being done for Londoners in any borough apart from Westminster.
In both Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham there will be only short-term “events”, rather than long-lasting improvements. During the first weekend of the Games, the men's and women's road cycle races will speed along Knightsbridge, Brompton Road and Fulham Road before heading out – and then return through the borough.
The one silver lining is Westminster, which is planning to give the West End a £9 million “Olympic facelift”, working with developers Land Securities, the Crown Estate, TfL and Grosvenor. However, a close look shows that even these headline projects are more of a series of facelifts, which, while pleasant and overdue, will hardly be noticed by the nine out of ten Olympic visitors, expected to visit the West End.
Improvements to Leicester Square, for instance, will bring a new building to replace the rickety old Half-Price Ticket booth. Others include new granite paving for the Square, gardens and side streets; new lighting; a white granite ribbon seating design; contemporary planting and new bronze railings and gates for the gardens; and the complete refurbishment of the Square's below ground toilets.
Covent Garden will benefit from improving the streetscapes of Mercer Street and King Street. In total, 460 metres of New York stone paving and 1550sq metres of new granite carriageways have been laid.The 300 metre walking route from Leicester Square to Covent Garden is being improved to encourage people to walk, avoiding two of London’s most crowded tube stations.
The Strand/Aldwych “Scramble Zone” will see a £1.75 million revamp, to create two additional crossings at the dangerous and accident-prone junction. However, this project will not be completed until after the Games. Elsewhere in Westminster, most of the improvement will centre on the main shopping areas on and north of Oxford Street.
On Oxford Street £1.2million, funded by Land Securities, developers of the site Park House on the street’s western side, will provide wider footpaths, new trees and better lighting. Similarly, Oxford Street East Phase 1 is already underway to widen footways and pedestrian strips and improve the road junction with Portman Street. Upgrading of street lights, repaving of pathways and tree planting will also improve the ever-popular South Molton Street and Davis Street and James St and St Christopher’s Place. The latter will also see their design and landscaping upgraded and more public art.
My personal favourite, and the only one to have the WOW factor, is the lighting improvement project to the magical twin Golden Jubilee Footbridges linking the South Bank and Trafalgar Square. Work will be completed by July, when it will look terrific.
Read this article in Hebrew.
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