Boxpark announced food plan after getting £3m council loan

Croydon Council’s £3 million loan of public cash to persuade Boxpark to set up a pop-up shopping mall alongside East Croydon Station was made in the expectation that the retail outlet would be a mixed development of trend-setting fashion stores just like the Shoreditch original.

Boxpark in Shoreditch: work on a similar pop-up retail development next to East Croydon is expected to start in the summer

Boxpark in Shoreditch: East Croydon’s version is not going to include fashion stores

But according to senior sources at the Town Hall, it was not until a meeting with council officials on the day of the launch in July that Boxpark’s founder, Roger Wade, announced that Croydon’s mall would be made up exclusively of food stores, bars and restaurants.

“Jo Negrini was not very happy at all,” our source said of the reaction of the council’s planning director, who had brokered the multi-million-pound loan deal to lure Boxpark to occupy part of the Ruskin Square gateway site.

“Jo was clearly expecting another version of Boxpark Shoreditch, with all the designer label fashion stores in the old shipping containers. The idea that Croydon’s Boxpark would be food-only was never discussed in advance.”

Work has begun on the Croydon Boxpark, which is due to open next spring. It has been reported that the site will now accommodate 20 per cent more units than was announced just two months ago.

“Filling Boxpark with nearly 100 cafes, restaurants and bars is not going to be easy,” said the source.

Croydon Council leader Tony Newman in discussion with Boxpark's Roger wade last night: "So, after that £3m loan from the council, is there a discount on burgers on our way back from watching Fulham?"

Croydon Council leader Tony Newman in discussion with Boxpark’s Roger Wade at the July launch: “So when were you going to tell us about the food court idea?”

“And it’s not as if central Croydon hasn’t already got plenty of bars and fried chicken shops… Of course, they’ll say that they are seeking chic, independent outlets for Boxpark Croydon, but the food business is not the same as fashion, which is the background where Roger Wade comes from and understands.”

Voodoo Rays, MEATliquor and Franco Manca are among the fashionable eateries and bars who have been linked to the Croydon Boxpark.

“But to ensure there’s near-full occupancy from Day One with a food-only Boxpark, they are going to have to have some chains in there, too. That’s how the industry works,” said Inside Croydon‘s insider.

Croydon Council committing millions of pounds of public money to a scheme near East Croydon Station to “assist” private enterprise, only for it to back-fire with an embarrassing balls-up will revive uncomfortable memories for senior staff working in Fisher’s Folly.

Visible from the Boxpark site is Croydon’s notorious Bridge to Nowhere. Built at a cost of £24 million of tax-payers’ cash as a northern entrance and exit to East Croydon Station, the public authorities failed to get a legally binding agreement from Menta, the owners of the development on the eastern side of the railway lines to build the designed access to Cherry Orchard Road.

“It looks very much as if the financial deal with Boxpark has been made without the council’s legal department specifying binding conditions over the nature of the operation on the site,” another council source said.

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10 Responses to Boxpark announced food plan after getting £3m council loan

  1. Pingback: Boxpark announced food plan after getting £3m council loan | LondonBiz WordPress Blog

  2. As I have said previously regarding the bridge never commence construction without the land. It is a golden rule in construction. Similarly never make a significant loan without a guarantee of what it is for – and a mechanism for retrieving you money if the agreement is broken. Quite simple really but how is it that Croydon seems to enter into agreements that are not watertight? For the sake of Croydon I hope that the documentation for Hammersfield is more secure.

  3. When you think of this council administration and the previous one, a phrase comes to mind which, to be polite, can be expressed as involving the words “celebration” and “brewery”, and the inability to stage one at the latter.

    Not to have had watertight guarantees of what Boxpark would offer was simply crass, stupid and incompetent.

    Not to do something to prevent the opening of nearly 100 food and similar units is equally ridiculous.

    Who will be paying for removing the all the additional refuse and sewage from the site, nightly, and who will pay for cleaning it nightly? Us? Will the units be charged special council tax rates because of the additional burdens they will place on already creaking and inefficient services? Are the local police going to be allocating additional staff to the site? They will be needed.

    It all happens because successive administrations become totally blinded when faced with the notion of more businesses, more stuff to trickle down, more shops, more ££££ and they simply go starry eyed, lose all powers of clear thought and simply capitulate.

    Hammersfield will be the same. If it ever gets built, let alone fully occupied, it will be the single healthy tooth in a mouthful of dentures in dire need of attention.

  4. A food only Boxpark, will fail. There is NO demand for 100 additional food outlets in Croydon. Like many others I cannot believe that Croydon Council did not get this matter dealt with before we exchanged contracts. It will be come an empty eyesore.
    Shame is I think a range of independent clothes shops might well have been successful, I certainly believe it would have a far better chance than food only.
    Not that I wish this to happen, but I can see Boxpark going pop and it being a less than half empty shell for the large part of its existence in Croydon.

  5. David Hamilton says, “I can see Boxpark going pop and it being a less than half empty shell for the large part of its existence in Croydon”. And he is nearly absolutely right but, unhappily, really only half-right.

    Had he extended his comment to include Hammersfield and the whole Croydon Gateway Scheme he would have been on track to be 100% right!

    It’s difficult to find the right analogies, synonyms or portmanteaux that encapsulate the attitude of successive administrations to these schemes but here are but a few to choose from: Stars in Their Eyes, Folie de Grandeur, Heads in the Clouds, Rose Tinted Spectacles and, finally, from a the great mis-speaker but occasional truth teller, Donald Rumsfeld: “Visit with your predecessors from previous Administrations. They know the ropes and can help you see around some corners. Try to make original mistakes, rather than needlessly repeating theirs.”

    Repeating Minerva, Boxpark… the list will go on.

  6. joeycan says:

    Isn’t it about time that Croydon Council’s legal department, their boss Julie Belvir, and her legal policies came under close examination from the legal ombudsman, not to mention the Council standards committee?

  7. Rod Davies says:

    The question that does not seem to be asked is “why has Boxpark decided to make it an exclusively food centre?”

    I think we can assume that the company has made an assessment of Croydon as retail market and arrived at that commercial decision. If this is the case, then could it be that Croydon is not regarded as a viable retail market for the designer brands seen in other Boxpark developments? Or have the brands indicated that once the town centre is redeveloped they would move into the new “Whitgift Centre”.

    Perhaps, the footfall around the station is such that it is highly attractive to food outlets and Boxpark have already pre-let the units in response to demand.

    That being said, there is the further question that if Boxpark did not consider the East Croydon station / Dingwall Rd a viable location for anything other than food, why did Croydon Council’s professionals not identify the same?

    • The first question you pose has been asked. Just Roger the Dodger at Boxpark ain’t saying. The suggestion that Hammersfield leant on him to not have designer outlets there has been openly discussed, but has never been confirmed.

      There are not other “Boxparks”, just the one, at Shoreditch, where weak licensing decisions by the local authority has seen it become increasingly taken over by bars and nightclubs, rather than fashion outlets, to the annoyance of local residents’ associations and seeing it re-named Boozepark…

      Croydon’s Boozepark is a temporary arrangement, in any case, occupying the site until Stanhope Schroders need it for a more permanent development. The expectation is that it may last no more than three years – until Hammersfield is on-stream.

      But what is known is that Boozepark’s marketing department changed its approach from fashion to food as late as July, and that they have a lot of work to do to find takers for the 100 units that they have available.

  8. joeycan says:

    So, why aren’t the Council’s legal wonders being investigated for their incompetence?

  9. veeanne2015 says:

    Not just the additional refuse and sewage (mentioned by Arno), but delivery also !
    Delivery requirements, for nearly 100 cafes, restaurants and bars, will be extremely high compared with other types of shops, and where will all these vehicles park ?

    What with the proposed tram loop crossing George Street and then going up Dingwall Road and Lansdowne Road, and the major road alterations in Wellesley Road for Westfield, it would seem that the legal eagles and Council have agreed a £3 million loan of public money to ‘Boozepark’ for traffic chaos, as well as undesirability and unsuitability of the planned take-up !

    Was it the prospect of this I wonder caused Metro Bank to change their mind ?

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