The hot new trend for European development is neighborhoods where everything a resident needs is within a short walk. Now, a prominent U.S. developer is building one of London’s largest versions of this type of megaproject.

Related Companies is leading a £5 billion, equivalent to $6.7 billion, development to transform 180 acres into what it calls a model urban neighborhood, where residents would be able to work, rest and play all within a 15-minute stroll from their front doors.

Work began earlier this year on Brent Cross Town, a joint venture between Related and the U.K. developer Argent. The first of 6,700 homes are slated to be ready in 2024. A new train station with service to central London taking just 12 minutes should be completed in 2022.

But Brent Cross residents might not choose to travel to the city center that often. The project would include 3 million square feet of office space and about 50 acres of parks and playing fields. Plans also call for stores, restaurants, a movie theater and three schools.

An aerial rendering of the 180-acre Brent Cross Town development, where residents’ work and recreation options would all be a short walk away.



Photo:

Argent Related

Taken together, they represent what Europeans call a 15-minute city.

These projects have been taking off in recent years because it has become clear that suburban and outer-city homeowners want the same access to amenities as those who live in city centers, said

Dominic Grace,

head of London residential development at real-estate firm

Savills.

“Covid-19 has accelerated that realization,” he said. “People want to live somewhere where they can comfortably work from home, and if people are going into the office in the middle of town less often, they also want some of that infrastructure—the gyms, restaurants, bars—closer to home.”


If people are going into the office in the middle of town less often, they also want some of that infrastructure—the gyms, restaurants, bars—closer to home.


— Dominic Grace, real-estate firm Savills

Buyers are willing to pay a premium of at least 30% to live close to these amenities, Mr. Grace said.

The Brent Cross Town blueprint isn’t completely new, said

Ken Wong,

Related’s chief operating officer and director of international development. Modern satellite towns around most U.S. cities already offer an amenity-packed lifestyle.

The main difference is Brent Cross Town’s proximity and connectivity to central London, which Mr. Wong said will particularly appeal to businesses looking to relocate to modern and less-expensive environments than the city center.

Rendering of Brent Cross Town’s main street, including stores, restaurants, three schools and a planned movie theater.



Photo:

Argent Related

Other 15-minute style projects include the 200-acre MediaCityUK, in the city of Salford, which is 3 miles from Manchester, Britain’s second-largest city. The British Broadcasting Corp. and other major television companies are among the tenants.

Kop van Zuid, an abandoned 309-acre port 3 miles from central Rotterdam, is being transformed into one of the largest 15-minute cities in Western Europe. The former head office of the Holland-Amerika Lijn, a shipping company, is now a four-star hotel. Other buildings there have been designed by top European architects like Renzo Piano,

Norman Foster

and

Rem Koolhaas.

The phrase “15-minute city” was coined by

Prof. Carlos Moreno

of the Sorbonne Business School in Paris. He advocates reorganizing the city’s arrondissements into a network of self-sufficient neighborhoods.

The concept has been embraced by the Paris Mayor

Anne Hidalgo.

Her first step was to sacrifice on-street parking to install cycle paths on every street and bridge, to help Parisians reach local amenities without getting into their cars.

But it wasn’t until the turn of the 21st century that developers began to invest in creating brand-new urban villages in central London locations like King’s Cross and Paddington, both previously neglected neighborhoods blighted by proximity to major transport interchanges.

Brent Cross Town does have challenges to overcome, including the financial uncertainty caused by Britain’s turbulent exit from Europe. Even before the coronavirus pandemic,

Hammerson

PLC and Aberdeen Standard Investments, owners of the dated 1970s Brent Cross Shopping Centre just north of Brent Cross Town, had shelved plans to expand and renovate the indoor mall. That project was originally seen as an integral part of the plan, and its loss illustrates just how hard it can be to coordinate redevelopment on such a grand scale.

Still, Argent Related, the company set up by Related and Argent in 2015, expects the benefits of a 15-minute lifestyle go beyond mere convenience. It plans to monitor the residents as Brent Cross Town matures in an attempt to find empirical proof that it is also a healthier way to live, mentally and physically.

“We have the aspiration that our developments are going to improve the health and well-being of the people that we are building them for,” said

Nick Searl,

a partner at Argent Related.

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