We have been known to dream…
There are have been some wonderful life enhancing tech start-ups over the past few years. Airbnb and Uber have changed, for the better, the way I consume travel and getting about. But there is one that every time I go running in a town or city gets me thinking. I love looking at and often “investing in” the new ideas and ingenuity that flow out of Kickstarter and I love the way that it can genuinely empower (and often bring a healthy dose of harsh reality) to entrepreneurs and inventors.
But I can’t stop thinking about the possibilities of some form of “urban regeneration human kick-starter” whereby likeminded folk pledge themselves to bringing new energy to a place that needs jumpstarting into life.
There is a growing body of evidence from major cities around the world where resourceful, thrifty, urban pioneering “do-ers” colonise down at heel districts and upcycle them into vibrant liveable places. The Mitte district in Berlin, Williamsburg in New York, Hackney Wick in London and the Baltic Quarter in Liverpool to name just a few.
There is often talk of the UK being a crowded island with no room to build new homes for its housing starved population and the concept of green belt, whilst not been totally sacrosanct, is in my opinion generally a decent one. But I keep seeing vast swathes of opportunity to densify our towns and cities in areas that the urban pioneering types would love.
This weekend I was lucky enough to spend a long Bank Holiday in Liverpool to witness the massive Three Queens event and to continue to plan for our Transatlantic 175 event in July. I can’t resist running along the magnificent Mersey at sunrise and this weekend I ran throughout the all the nooks and crannies of the Liverpool Docklands and the Leeds –Liverpool canal corridor for the first time. There is a pocket of brave and beautifully conceived regeneration of those awe inspiring industrial buildings at the Titanic Hotel.
But there are vast swathes (the size of a medium sized town) that have all the qualities that many creative minds find exciting; derelict industrial buildings, affordable land, waterside locations, access to the coast and within relatively easy reach of a city centre.
I kept running past and imagining taking on one of the old buildings and making an industrial home complete with design studio and some form of occasional retail.
The possibilities seemed endless but the scale of the opportunity is daunting. But I kept thinking what if like Kickstarter, 500, 1000, 5000 people coming together and “investing” at the same time could bring something to life? What if 500 like-minded urban pioneers descended on a place like Liverpool Docklands, set up their own individual homes and businesses and as a coherent community got to work in injecting new life into a concentrated area. I am not thinking “pie in the sky 70s hippy commune utopia” but an entrepreneurial creative community with shared values rather than shared living spaces and with some of the “pioneers” coming from a capital city that they can’t afford to do what they want to in.
Could a Human Kick –starter work or is it too big an ask? Who could or would lead such a thing and would it be like herding cats? Is it one of those concepts that at first seems like a good idea but doesn’t work because the complexities of life, work and finance, make it impossible?
If it could work then it seems like Liverpool would be perfect. Liverpool has a soupcon of independent cool in the Baltic Quarter (Camp and Furnace is a brilliant addition to the city), it has wonderful running and cycling opportunities, decent restaurants, good independent café culture (Leaf on Bold Street is brilliant) and nightlife venues (boy the Bombed out Church is exciting), superb parks ( The new Garden Festival Park is great), it has a fast Virgin train service and all this docklands land with the kind of buildings that urban pioneers love to bring back to life.
Come on new generation come up with how this might work and tempt this old timer to join in.