WOKINGHAM’S regeneration is top of the shops, scooping a top honour in a Europe-wide contest.
Last week, judges of the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Europe Awards for Excellence announced that the town centre project was a winner in its Awards For Excellence scheme, and will now go forward for a global award.
The project was one of 33 considered for the awards, which were held virtually on Thursday, July 8. Entries came from all over Europe, as well as the Middle East and Africa.
Winners were selected for their quality and forward-looking approach to development and design.
Hosted by former BBC correspondent Luisa Baldini, the ceremony was watched by real estate professionals. It included an overview of each project including comments from the judging panel and interviews with the winners.
The citation noted that the “mixed-use project not only provided a focal point to the community throughout the pandemic but is also likely to be future proof as residents spend more time working from home and less time commuting into nearby employment centres including London”.
Judges felt “the town centre was reimagined as a thriving destination for commerce and urban living, with modern retail formats, food and beverage, leisure and a significant quantum of residential across two mixed-use developments at Peach Place and Elms Field”.
They also noted that the project would create 750 jobs worth £21 million in wages, and £2 million in tourism as well as affordable housing and acting as a catalyst for future regeneration.
“In an extremely challenging year, these laudable projects demonstrate what can be achieved with great ambition and a flexible approach,” said Giancarlo Scotti, chair of the awards jury.
“The quality of the entries was extremely high, but the winners stood out as case studies that highlight some of the best initiatives around currently, particularly with regard to housing, sustainability, circular building, regeneration, and community building. We believe that they will prove valuable for ULI members and others in the industry to learn from.”
The news has been welcomed by Wokingham Borough Council.
“There is something really special about Wokingham and the areas around it so, to see it receiving the recognition it deserves, is something I think everyone living or working here should be proud of,” said Cllr Stuart Munro, executive member for business and economic development at the council.
“The regeneration has been our opportunity to give residents the town centre they deserve, and it’s been great watching the community embrace spaces like Elms Field and Peach Place as places to gather and enjoy.”
And council leader John Halsall felt the award was well deserved as the town centre was fantastic.
“It’s provided a whole set of facilities people of Wokingham didn’t have before,” he said. “I’m very pleased, not least as its existence was fought by the opposition.”
This is not the first set of awards for the town centre. Others include the Royal Planning Town Institute (RTPI) excellence in planning for a successful economy award, and the Association of Public Sector Excellence (APSE) annual service award for best housing, regeneration or new build initiative.
It has also been selected for inclusion in the Society for Public Architecture, Construction, Engineering and Surveying (SPACES) Yearbook, with Elms Field shortlisted as a finalist for the Civic Building of the Year award, judged later this year.