The number of empty shops on Britain’s high streets rose by more than 7,500 last year, and the number of retail openings have fallen every year since 2015, when they were overtaken by closures. While some high streets continue to thrive, many others appear dormant and need to transform.
The BPF Futures Challenge is a ground-breaking new initiative that will put real estate’s future leaders at the heart of solving one of the biggest challenges facing our towns and cities: how to breathe new life into urban centres.
The challenge is a partnership between the Office of Government Property, developer and investor U+I and the British Property Federation, which supports the industry’s largest network for young professionals, BPF Futures.
Open to all property professionals with 10 years or fewer experience in the industry, the challenge is a real opportunity to bring fresh thinking to a real-world problem, using collaborative working between public and private sector partners.
The winners could see their idea piloted through the government’s One Public Estate programme, with a £100,000 package of support to help turn their vision into reality.
We hope to see real success through retailers, businesses, communities, property owners, local and regional authorities and national government working together to ensure that places can adapt successfully and incorporate a wider mix of uses.
The event will be run as a one-day structured competitive workshop in September. Teams drawn from the public and private sectors will work on a real-life urban centre and spend the day finding solutions to the challenges they are experiencing.
This could mean exploring what a successful public-private partnership could look like and what it might achieve, new ways to create footfall in the town, setting out how new tech could improve a place’s ‘user journey’, examining the link and balance between retail, public services, employment and homes or understanding how inter-generational communities and programmes might create day-long connections and bring new life and opportunities.
The challenge format means that teams can work intensively and without distractions, pooling their talents and experience to create new solutions in a guided, supportive environment.
This is a unique chance to work closely with government and to understand and use the relationships between government and industry as we promote the positive impact real estate can have on local communities.
The challenge presents a great opportunity for the next generation of real estate leaders, whether they are planners, investors, developers, surveyors or lawyers, to showcase their talent and innovative ideas and help revitalise our high streets.
By signing up to the challenge, our future industry leaders can make their mark and set out their vision for the future of our town and city centres.
Isabelle Hease is a BPF Futures Advisory Board member and head of research and analytics at Ellandi