Croydon looks set to get its own Boxpark retail marketplace, right next to East Croydon Station.
Croydon Visitor Centre and the computer gadget shop next door on the concourse area of East Croydon Station are being moved out to make way for a south London version of one of Shoreditch’s more trendy pop-up retail locations.
It is understood that discussions have been on-going with consultants representing the council for almost a year. Given that the site of the old coal merchants’ yard, on the corner of Dingwall Road and George Street, has been lying derelict for 30 years, and that any new Hammersfield supermall in the centre of town may not be ready to open in this decade, Croydon Boxpark could be a pragmatic, and speedy, option to enliven the entry point for the tens of thousands of daily commuters and visitors who use East Croydon.
According to documents at Companies House, Boxpark Croydon was incorporated in December 2014. The uninspired, and uninspiring, Croydon Visitor Centre and gadget shop were given their notices to quit a month later.
According to sources in Katharine Street, Croydon Council was to make the Boxpark announcement next month, when senior officials and councillors all go off on a week-long jolly to the South of France to arse-lick developers at MIPIM in Cannes.
Boxpark is the brainchild of Roger Wade, the man behind fashion label Boxfresh.
Shoreditch’s Boxpark opened in December 2011 and is, by all measures, thriving commercially. It has been described as, “Lots of old shipping containers, all bolted together to become a hipster mall”. On Shoreditch High Street, on a site that is also hard by railway lines, they used 60 standard-sized shipping containers, stacked two stories high and five rows wide.
Wade has called it “the most environmentally friendly shopping centre ever built”.
“The great thing is, if one of these shops doesn’t feel it’s getting the most out of this location, they can potentially move to another part of the country with a vacant bit of land, without having to close down or dismantle a thing,” Wade said in an interview at the time of the Shoreditch opening.
That was three years ago, with the site then having a five-year lease, and with the plan to return the land back to its owners in the same condition as it was before Boxpark was built.
In Croydon, it is understood that Boxpark will operate on an initial three-year lease; the £1billion concrete super-mall proposed to be built by Hammerson and Westfield won’t be ready to open until late 2019 at the earliest. The Boxpark length of lease also suggests that the site owners do not foresee starting on their long-held plans for their “Croydon Gateway” development until 2019.
The Boxpark scheme is something of a gear-shift for the site owners, seeing them going from Sir Norman Foster architecture designs to shops operating out of old shipping containers.
The site is owned by developers Stanhope and investors Schroder, who commissioned prestigious architect drawings from Foster for a mixed-use offices, residential and retail building on this key corner plot. But without the immediate prospect of an anchor tenant for the office space – despite suggestions from local MP Gavin Barwell of a government department taking the lead – Boxpark could make useful use of the site for several years to come.
Indeed, if Boxpark proves to be successful in Croydon, you might wonder what need there will be for the £1 billion Hammersfield build…
Last year, after patiently hoping for market conditions to improve, Stanhope-Schroder began the build of its first development on Ruskin Square, a residential tower with 161 homes (36 of them “affordable”) at the north end of their site, close to Croydon’s infamous Bridge to Nowhere.
It is signal of Stanhope-Schroder’s good intentions that they altered their site plans to accommodate the bridge exit on the eastern side of the railway lines, and have developed the public realm there, long before the public authorities, including Network Rail and CroydonCouncil, began to act to complete the bridge on the western side of the tracks.
Work is now underway for Ruskin Square’s first office development, on a plot alongside the apartments.
Having Boxpark nearby is likely to improve the desirability of the location for prospective residents and commercial tenants in the rest of Ruskin Square’s development.
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