The new CMK Point – an exciting destination or a pointless exploding Toblerone?

love it or hate it -  the Point has probably had its day.

love it or hate it – the Point has probably had its day.

Xplain had a preview of Hammerson’s plans to redevelop the Point yesterday before the public exhibition this Thurs & Sat, 6 & 8 June.

Generally it’s great that the developer has listened to the public and wants to invest in MK. Unfortunately we think the new design is fussy, out-dated and contrived. It looks like an exploding Toblerone – all odd triangles sprinkled with red neon lights!  To be fair, they have tried to pick up on the recent public outpouring of affection for the Point, but if they are going to demolish it why not start with a clean slate?
We would rather they re-considered the whole site, which occupies a large block from Avebury to Midsummer Boulevards, and not focus too much on the frontage nearest the shopping centre.
The revised plan is still a box – but now it is higher with a kitsch facade. We think MK deserves something better. Full marks for trying guys,  but we think Hammerson can do better than this.
For example, a piece of cool, modernist architecture that knits well into the surrounding boulevards and streets would suit the unique character of MK better than this. And where is the appealing public space in this proposal? There isn’t any. In fact, public space will be lost as the building line steps forward. But how about a leafy rooftop terrace or courtyard where people can take a break and look out on an attractive setting or view?
The revised plan is to build higher – about 20m high – with the front of the building brought forward (but still in line with the Food Centre). This will obviously cast wider, deeper shadows on the pavement and trees along Midsummer and change the skyline. 
Retail will go on the ground and first floor and leisure on the third. It’s a 160,00 sq ft development – about the size of John Lewis’. They hope to include a 9-screen cinema and a bingo hall, but that depends on attracting a suitable tenant.
The building will have no ‘internal street’, which means that people will just pop in and out of shops all round the perimeter.  This is good for animating Midsummer Boulevard but some form of continuous weather protection is important. However so far they have just indicated little fan-like porticos over the doorways, when planning policy and common decency in this climate requires colonnades!
It’s a great pity they want to keep the existing multistorey car park facing Avebury Boulevard. After all, this is a chance to redevelop the whole of the site, with a fresh, unifying theme.  Car parking could be built inside the new development which would not only be popular (as it is at nearby Debenhams/Midsummer Place) but open up more life and activity on Avebury Boulevard. Of course this is more expensive to build.
It’s disappointing, however, that the developer has not involved local architects who understand MK’s unique qualities. Adrian Morrow, for example, who attended the preview urged them to look at a classier, more holistic approach to the entire site. “We don’t want to see kitsch in Milton Keynes.  This kind of post-modernism is already 20 years out of date and this amorphous shape is alien to the rectilinear architecture generally found in the city, and in the Listed shopping building in particular. Classic, cool Modernism would be my favourite approach, with a scheme that brings more life to Avebury Boulevard as well,” says Adrian.
Xplain urged them to come up with some imaginative use for the roof.  This could be a rooftop winebar or garden cafe where people could enjoy live music etc in summer, as well as views towards the Brickhills and over CMK. Rooftop services such as air conditioning units could go in the large basement – if they keep it.
The new Point needs something like this otherwise it will be just a highly packaged box full of chain stores and restaurants, and not the ‘destination shopping’ venue they want to create, or the type of development that will build on the already distinctive character and appeal of CMK.
Timing: they aim to put in an outline planning application in July or August, then they’d go shopping for tenants, before putting in a full application.
However Hammerson says they are still listening to the public, so we hope to see improvements to these plans. James Rowbotham, development manager, said “I don’t want to build a building nobody likes!”
The exhibition is inside the McIntyre cafe at the Point.
Thurs 6 June 12 pm – 6 pm
Sat 8 June 10 am – 2 pm
Please go if you have the chance and leave your comments. Also please send your views to xplain.

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