So now we know how much tax-payers’ money it takes to bring a decent-sized business to the town centre.
The Croydon Guardian reports that Croydon Council has gone into the banking business, making a £3 million loan to Boxpark to persuade them to set up on the Ruskin Square site next to East Croydon Station. Let’s face it, as bankers, Croydon’s Labour-run Town Hall can hardly do a worse job than RBS or HSBC, though Council Tax-payers may wish to exercise a little caution.
As one senior Katharine Street figure said to Inside Croydon of the council’s cabinet member for economic development, Toni Letts, “If you asked her what the ‘RoI’ is on the Boxpark scheme, she’d probably think you were asking about the Republic of Ireland.”
The £3 million loan from council funds to a private commercial company towards setting up a pop-up mall is apparently the brainchild of Jo Negrini, who the frequently ludicrous council now labels as “executive director, place”, but which the passenger on the Thornton Heath omnibus still regards as the borough’s planning chief.
Australian-born Negrini was appointed to her key position at the Town Hall soon after the Australian-based developers Westfield pitched up with their £1billion scheme to redevelop the Whitgift Centre, together with Centrale owners Hammerson. Negrini appears to be coming increasingly powerful, driving the policies of the reputedly Labour-run council and holding a growing conviction in her own importance.
For long-time Croydon businesses and residents’ sake, it has to be hoped that Negrini’s dabbling in the banking business proves to be more successful than former council CEO Jon Rouse and his successor Nathan Elvery, when they used millions of public money to shore-up the struggling CCURV joint venture with John Laing, including the £145 million council HQ offices, for which Council Tax-payers will be paying for decades to come.
Details of what Croydon’s return on investment might be for the £3 million loan were absent from the freebie paper’s report. Sources suggest that with Boxpark unlikely to break event until its third year of operation, the council loan was essential to get the operators to take-up the site.
The mall, scheduled to open next summer, will include 80 shops, bars and restaurants, all contained within former shipping containers. Boxpark should be up and operating at least three years before the Hammersfield shopping centre. The council’s loan amounts to barely one-hundredth of the public money being lavished on road and transport schemes at the behest of Westfield and Hammerson.
According to the Croydon Guardian, “The loan will come from the council’s revolving investment fund. The council said returns would be used to support future developments.” A study in deliberate vagueness and opacity.
“The council has granted a loan on commercial terms to help bring the Boxpark scheme to Croydon, having seen how successful it has been in Shoreditch. We believe this exciting project will bring huge benefits to Croydon,” a council spokesman told the paper.
“It contributes to the regeneration and transformation of the borough, bringing in hundreds of new jobs, attracting visitors and drawing in customers and new businesses from across the south-east.”
Ruskin Square owners Stanhope and Schroder are hoping to make a start on their long-delayed mixed-use development of the site in 2019, provided that by then they have managed to find an anchor tenant for the majority of the office space.
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