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Circus Street​ by U+I

Shortlisted for Brownfield Awards Category 9 - Best Urban Regeneration/

Brownfield Scheme (Sponsored by AECOM)

A new neighbourhood: in the city and by the sea  

Inspired by its community and location, Circus Street is a new mixed-use development in  Brighton being brought to life via the transformation of a derelict fruit and vegetable market  into a bespoke new district for the city, delivering a rich mix of uses.  

After years of engagement with local residents and the local council, Circus Street is set to  become both an innovation quarter and a powerhouse for regeneration in the city centre.  

The development process will involve the creation of a sustainable, productive, healthy  model of city life, with great public spaces, a lively, creative atmosphere, and a real sense of  community. 

Construction is weeks away from finishing and will deliver 142 new homes, 450 managed  student bedrooms and a prestigious 30,000ft² office building, as well as a number of  workshop and retail opportunities.  

A £130m public private partnership with Brighton and Hove City Council and the University  of Brighton, Circus Street will also reflect the city’s artistic and creative heritage, providing  the local area with a new base for the internationally-acclaimed South East Dance ensemble  called The Dance Space. This will include a theatre and studios catering for local community  participation and is expected to attract around 70,000 visitors and users a year. 

Upon completion, Circus Street will have created more than 400 new jobs and more than  £200m gross value added to the local economy in the next ten years. 

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Circus Street sits on a sloping site between Brighton’s city centre and seafront, with a mix of uses  occupying high-quality, distinctive buildings that will serve a diverse community

Green and sustainable  

The Circus Street neighbourhood is formed around two new planted urban squares, in an  area previously lacking in green space. With an eye on encouraging sustainable and  environmentally-focused transport habits, we have also created safe pedestrian and cycle  routes, as well as more than 600 secure cycle spaces.  

The green spaces have been designed with the wellbeing of the community in mind.  Residents will be encouraged to grow fruit and vegetables in allotments, taking inspiration  from the fruit and vegetable market that historically stood on the site. Planting strips create  privacy buffers but also contribute to the enhanced public realm, much like the tight hedge  planting in front of many of Brighton’s terraced streets.

Over 100 trees will be planted across the neighbourhood along with 10,000 shrubs, grasses  and plants, contributing to the city’s green corridor next to Valley Gardens. An orchard,  including 20-year-old, semi-mature crab apple trees, has been planted in the centre of the  residential part of the site, with wildflower turf laid around it. A ‘champion’ 14-metre elm tree  will also be planted, in recognition of the city’s important role in hosting the National Elm  Collection, the largest collection of elms in any city in the world.

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New public realm and extensive planting will create a green and pleasant neighbourhood. For an area  that has previously been underserved in terms of green space, the new accommodation will  encourage the growth of fruit and vegetables in allotments (taking inspiration from the municipal  market where fresh produce was once sold) and allow the planting of disease resistant elms and  steps to nurture biodiversity. 

Across the development there will be a big focus on sustainable transport, along with a  significant push for green energy and residential design that encourages more communal,  responsible, neighbourly living among tenants. 

Rated BREEAM Excellent across the entire development, all accommodation at Circus  Street has been designed to be highly energy efficient. Photovoltaic panels provide green  energy to the homes and green roof systems encourage biodiversity.  

Focus has been placed on using low-impact materials throughout, along with optimum land  use, reduced energy consumption and waste recycling.

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The sustainability agenda extends to a focus on travel by bike and foot, a push for green energy, and  residential design that encourages more communal, responsible, neighbourly living among tenants 

Homes celebrating heritage  

114 one- and two-bedroom apartments for private rent – which will be operated by M&G  Real Estate – and 28 affordable homes are arranged across four residential buildings. A  further four high-quality student blocks accommodate 450 students, creating smaller  individual student communities and delivering attractive public space between buildings. 

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Homes and student accommodation are provided in distinctive buildings inspired by the local  architectural style

The apartment typology has been inspired by and reflects Brighton’s much-loved residential  streets, including grand Regency townhouses and mansion blocks, and the network of  smaller terraced streets that line the hillsides. 

Aesthetically, the distinctive regency elements of Brighton’s colours and details have been  adapted to create a ‘hyper regency’ style, visible in colours and details for signage,  thresholds and installations such as cycle shelters. Variety, contrast and detail have been  prioritised to create a rich yet coherent visual mix, one that will inspire those living and  working in the development to contribute to a continuously evolving neighbourhood. 

Space for businesses to flourish 

At the scheme’s centre stands a landmark new office space, set to become home to the  region’s leading businesses.  

Simple yet smart and uncomplicated floor plans maximise the usable space on each level.  Above the ground floor reception and retail space are six levels of top-quality contemporary  office space, featuring 5,000ft² of workspace, including a fully-glazed penthouse office with a  wrap-around terrace. 

Research commissioned by U+I and undertaken by Censuswide has revealed Brighton’s  appeal as a post-pandemic destination to live and work. 76% of London business owners  state that they have moved offices or would like to as a result of the pandemic, and circa  

80% are expecting a wider adoption of the hub and spoke model (where businesses have a  small HQ in the capital and satellite offices in the regions). Notably, Brighton came top in the  list of locations that these respondents would consider outside of the capital. 

Similarly, only 8% of Brighton business owners are not considering moving offices, with  many citing a need for more high-quality office space in the city. They are also anticipating a  move to a more hybrid mix of home and office working, highlighting that there is still a place  for the office in the longer term. 

Local office employees believe the city is a great place to live and work, but many are  concerned about the Covid safety of workplaces. Many are also considering changing jobs  to be closer to home. 

All of these findings highlight Circus Street as an attractive proposition for office occupiers. 

Community-first approach 

Engagement with the local community was seen as crucial to the success of the  regeneration of Circus Street and began long before works started on site. We embarked on  a programme of events to inform the local and wider community of the plans for the area,  believing this was an essential part of allowing local people to understand our vision for the  development, and give them the opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas.  

For more than two years we hosted community and creative events attended by more than  40,000 people who enjoyed around 100 different events, including a variety of activities from  weekly bike hub workshops and hula hoop sessions to exhibitions of work from University of  Brighton students, artists and performances by South East Dance. We also hosted large  scale events such as Morvelo bike races, Brighton Festival installations and The Brighton Photo Biennial.

Richard Upton, CEO at U+I, said: 

“Connecting with the community was a key part of the regeneration of this site. We wanted to bring life and energy back to a place which has been derelict and unused for many years,  to show people a flavour of what was to come from the new development. 

“The relationships built with Brighton & Hove City Council and the local community throughout the development phase have been vital in helping to create an exciting and  thriving place, one which is destined to be home to a healthy and happy community.” 

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