Practice says plans aiming to attract more workers back into the office are district’s biggest overhaul in a century

Gensler has unveiled £80m plans for a “radical” transformation of the public realm around the Fleet Street area of the City of London aiming to attract more people back into the office.

The practice has been appointed by the Fleet Street Quarter Business Improvement District, a group of more than 350 businesses, to rethink a 43ha part of the western side of the Square Mile.

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Gensler’s plans to make Ludgate Circus more pedestrian-friendly

The proposals span 34 public realm sites and include overhauling Ludgate Circus, Holborn Viaduct and Fleet Street itself to improve the experience of pedestrians.

Plans to be built out over the next 10 years also include creating a new gateway to the City outside Blackfriars station and planting an “urban forest” with pop-up shops, new seating and art installations at Holborn Circus.

A strategy launched by the BID last week, called the “Fleet Street Quarter’s Era of Change”, aims to create 3,000 sq m of additional pedestrian space, a 75% increase in seating space, double plant and animal biodiversity and double the amount of safe cycling routes.

The strategy also aims to encourage a 50% increase in workers returning to the office, a 50% increase in footfall to historic and cultural destinations and a 25% increase in public realm usage.

Concept design ideas revealed by Gensler are aiming to align with the City of London’s City Plan, which has called for the creation of more leisure and retail in the Square Mile to diversify the area’s economy.

The plans also come ahead of an estimated £5bn pipeline of new developments around Fleet Street, including the new £350m Eric Parry-designed Justice Quarter which is being built by Mace.

Gensler global director of cities Ian Mulcahey said the proposals would be one of the biggest improvement initiatives in the City of London in over 100 years.

“The reinvigoration of the Fleet Street Quarter has the potential to transform an essential and historic part of London’s Central Business District to create a dynamic 24/7 working, cultural and visitor destination,” he said.

Lucy French, chief executive of the Fleet Street Quarter BID, added: “The sheer scale of this transformation is directly what we know our businesses and investors in the area want to see, it is a direct response to the voices of our levy payers and the wider community. 

“This area is steeped with a rich history but now it is about taking it forward into its next phase of transformation, ensuring the area is globally competitive and catering for a new generation of visitors, workers and businesses.”

Last week, the latest crane survey by Deloitte found the last six months has seen the highest volume of new office starts in London in the past 18 years.

Major schemes in the Fleet Street area include the £429m 120 Fleet Street scheme, a 21-storey block designed by BIG which is being built by Lendlease behind the listed Daily Express Building.

This scheme will neighbour Landsec’s £250m redevelopment of the nearby Hill House, designed by Apt, which was submitted for planning last month.