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.
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.
“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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