Taking A Long-Term View: Investing in Bristol’s Recovery and Renewal6 August 2020

Liam Ronan-Chlond is the community and social value lead at First Base, the mixed-use property developer investing £175million to bring Bristol’s former Gardiner Haskins warehouse back to life.

The streets around the Soapworks site, which contains the former Gardiner Haskins warehouse, have transformed in recent years. New homes, offices and independent businesses have replaced old factories and dis-used warehouses, reflecting the wider socio-economic changes, not just in Bristol but in many other cities across the UK and the western world.

In 2020, the world faces yet more change, as I am sure anyone reading this is all too aware.

As a long-term developer, it is important for First Base to be future focused, delivering resilient places that stand the test of time.

At the Soapworks, we have begun to bake-in a range of responses to the challenges ahead, specifically the impact of coronavirus and the impending climate and ecological emergencies.

Supporting Bristol’s ambitions for an inclusive and sustainable recovery from COVID-19, our £175million investment in Soapworks will create workspace for over 2,000 jobs, 166 new homes and new public space for local independent businesses.

The impact of coronavirus has been disproportionate and the communities surrounding the Soapworks have been hit hard. Therefore, reducing inequality is a key component of these plans.

Our plans will generate over £200 million of social, economic and environmental value to the surrounding community. This Social Value Action Plan includes new jobs, training opportunities, support for local business and community groups, health and wellbeing improvements and environmental benefits.

Home working has been a growing trend for some time. Expedited by coronavirus, this will only continue. The planned mix of uses and amenities within the Soapworks provides the perfect environment to support this. Residents will have the opportunity to hire a desk in co-working space, work from a café on the ground-floor, or if it’s a nice day, outside in the public square. All new homes will be spacious enough to work from too, with easy access to outdoor space, whether balcony or roof terrace.

This live-work community will thrive throughout the Soapworks and the wider Redcliffe & Temple BID, which provides a neat stepping-stone between Temple Meads station and Old Market, as well as a route through to Bristol City Centre from Bristol University’s proposed Business Campus. This vibrant district will become a place for all to enjoy, from residents and workers, to those just passing through.

An inclusive and accessible public realm will integrate space for play, picnics and outdoor performances, supporting arts, culture and an early evening economy, helping to attract and retain talent within the city.

The Soapworks will provide a modern mix of flexible and adaptable workspaces in which to create and collaborate. The future worker will demand more from ‘the office’. After-all, post-COVID, these spaces have to compete with the comforts of home; from high-spec infrastructure required for a digital-led working environment, to enhancing health and wellbeing through green and breathable spaces to relax, unwind, exercise and socialise.

Aligned with Bristol’s ambition to tackle the climate and ecological crisis, the Soapworks will embrace nature, through low carbon design, renewable energy and increased biodiversity. With over 100 new plant species across the site, new trees, green roofs and creative landscaping, flora and fauna will be nurtured on this former industrial site.

A car-free community, the Soapworks will support sustainable travel, such as cycling, with secure storage for residents and visitors, repair facilities, showers and changing rooms. There is even the opportunity to integrate drone deliveries, limiting the need for delivery vehicles.

Some estimates suggest it will take up to two years for the economy to recover to its pre-coronavirus position. By this point, we hope that construction of the Soapworks will be well underway, providing much-needed jobs and training opportunities, alongside a suite of social, environmental and economic benefits for the Redcliffe & Temple Business Improvement District and beyond.

As a long-term developer, First Base is focused on the future success of the Soapworks; supporting Bristol’s inclusive and sustainable recovery and the city’s economic renewal.

We are therefore wholly aligned with the aims and ambition of the Redcliffe & Temple BID, which we will be proudly backing at next year’s ballot. Together, we can maximise the incredible opportunities that exist within this exciting district of Bristol, investing in an enhanced environment to live, work and play.

You can connect with Liam on LinkedIn here and follow the Soapworks development on Instagram here. For more details on the development, visit thesoapworksbristol.co.uk