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Regeneration boost: work commences on transformation of railway arches in London Borough of Southwark


13th May 2024

Stephen George + Partners (SGP) is delighted to see The Arch Company commence work on the transformation of four  dilapidated railway arches on America Street, Southwark, into spaces for restaurants, cafés, bars, and other leisure businesses to thrive. As design architect for the scheme, SGP has drawn on both its technical expertise and strong track record working with historic buildings to create contemporary spaces, which nod to the industrial heritage of the arches.

The arches, located under a 19th century railway viaduct in a prime London location between Southwark Bridge Road and Great Guildford Street, will now undergo extensive renovation and revitalisation works that will include the re-lining of all arch spaces, new insulated floor slabs suitable for restaurant use, and glazed front infills. In restoring these arches, a key priority has been to meet relevant energy efficiency standards, with all four arches intended to achieve an EPC ‘B’ rating.

“At Stephen George + Partners we firmly believe that the adaptive re-use of former industrial buildings can play a significant role in the revitalisation of our urban centres and the redevelopment of these railway arches on America Street is a prime example of the transformative potential of these important assets,” says SGP Studio Director Alan Soper. “Located in an area undergoing significant renewal and encompassing the Low Line urban regeneration initiative, the America Street scheme will transform previously unloved arches into contemporary spaces for new leisure, food and drink and retail businesses. Their prime location and Arch Company’s investment will help to create a vibrant destination for the neighbourhood, while also supporting local businesses and the wider community.”

SGP’s proposals for the alteration of the America Street arches have been carefully considered in a site-specific response, providing contemporary and adaptable arch spaces for prospective tenants. The specification of high-quality façade materials will restore a superior appearance to the elevations; while the design and style of the infills will create an on-brand aesthetic that will enhance the character and appearance of the conservation area and contribute to the Low Line regeneration initiative, which should be attractive to potential occupiers in the current marketplace.

Strategic Account Director, Santosh Patel, from Pick Everard said: “This unique project will transform America Street’s historic railway arches into a vibrant cultural hub. By converting these once disused spaces into bustling restaurants, cafés, and bars, we are not just revitalising the arches but fostering a community and destination that supports local business and community. Our teams have worked closely with the client and architectural team on investigation works of the existing site, to allow efficient structural and drainage solutions to be designed. Our building services team have also coordinated with local electricity network providers to construct a new substation, to provide sufficient power to the new development, and have designed the necessary ventilation, power and lighting solutions for the new arch fitouts. We eagerly look forward to seeing the completion of this transformative project.”

SGP Principal Architectural Technologist, Josh White, comments: “The ultimate aim is for the street to be pedestrianised and so our design incorporates active frontages to increase the connection with the street. We have large glazed frontages along America Street and to firmly anchor the scheme within the local milieu and further enhance the streetscape, bifold doors can open up onto the street, while a space to the front of two of the units can be adapted for outside seating and planting to create an appealing aesthetic to the Low Line.”

Craig McWilliam, Chief Executive at The Arch Company, said: “We’re investing £2.5m into these spaces to provide much-needed additional commercial space suitable for leisure use. Repurposing these arches is part of our ongoing programme to create fit-for-purpose spaces in which businesses can thrive. The America Street project is just one of over ten such projects for which SGP has been commissioned to develop designs. Two schemes have recently achieved planning consent in Manchester, whilst elsewhere in London Crucifix Lane and Witan Street are progressing on site. The latter is already on site and due to complete soon and comprises the refurbishment of six arches into high-specification commercial premises for light industrial use located just 16 minutes away from the City of London.

Alan Soper concludes: “We are delighted to be working with The Arch Company on their ambitious programme, bringing these derelict arches back to life so that they can boost local employment and help local areas grow and prosper. America Street is perfectly located for leisure and retail businesses to thrive and it’s incredibly gratifying to see work commence on these arches. We very much look forward to seeing them fully renovated and back in productive use.”