GRID’s proposal for the reuse and extension of the Wilko building in Kingston town centre was unanimously granted planning approval by Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames on 23rd March 2022.
The option to demolish the existing department store building and pursue a new-build option was rejected following GRID’s identification of the embodied carbon saving alongside a structural capacity appraisal. These proved that reusing the existing building was more sustainable and that the structure (designed for a retail loading) had capacity for an addition three lightweight floors of residential on top.
The ground and lower ground floor remain as retail, and the Wilko store will remain operational throughout the process. The upper floors, currently underutilised, will be converted into residential, with the structural bays aligning perfectly with openings in the façade to create a regular pattern of dwellings at these levels.
The upper floors continue the curved form of the existing building, but wrap around a residents courtyard garden. These dwellings having deck access to maximise dual aspect flats in the new build element.
The extra floors are designed to improve the proportions of the existing building to create a bigger brickwork ‘middle’ and a new ‘top’ to the building. A further ‘crown’ is added as a set back floor on the roof. This has a sweeping curved façade that meanders in and out to create sheltered roof top terraces for residents, and gives the building a distinctive roofscape.
The proposals generate 55 dwellings, including eleven 3bed family dwellings. The site’s location very close to Kingston Railway station means that it is highly accessible and therefore has zero car parking. Active travel is encouraged by providing two cycle store and improving the public realm outside the site in Old London Road. This includes creating a high quality setting to one of Kingston’s best known pieces of public art, “Out of Order” by David Mach, which features 12 iconic red telephone boxes toppling over.
The planning committee praised the designed and highlighted that the new proposals improved the setting of the next door listed cinema and other adjacent heritage assets.