Croydon Council today went some way to confirming – inadvertently, of course – that Boxpark, the publicly subsidised retail outlet alongside East Croydon Station, won’t be ready to open as planned this summer.
Inside Croydon was first to report the delay in preparing the Boozepark project.
Today, the top team in the press office at Fisher’s Folly drew further attention to the delay in readying the collection of disused shipping containers to open for business by announcing that the 2016 Ambition Festival will take place in September, as “a joint venture” with Boxpark.
As joint ventures go, this is all a bit one-sided. And not for the first time, it is Croydon’s ratepayers who seem to be picking up much of the tab.
The Boxpark deal has been brokered by Jo Negrini, the council’s executive director for development, and the Town Hall’s political leadership has dutifully supported it at every turn.
Boxpark has already got a £3 million loan of public money as a sweetener to set up in Croydon.
The council was then going to pay £160,000 per year for the privilege of using eight units in Boozepark, another significant subsidy. When they got found out about this, the council’s leader, Tony Newman, had it announced that instead, that money would be spent on the Ambition Festival. Effectively, judging by today’s council announcement, the council-funded Ambition Festival is effectively being used as a marketing budget for Boozepark.
That’s not an end to Croydon Council Tax-payers unwitting generosity towards this single new business.
Boxpark is getting the site (from Ruskin Square owners Stanhope and Schroders) at a peppercorn rent.
The Greater London Authority has stumped up £500,000 for “pre-development work”.
And, somewhat mysteriously (because the council refuses to state what the money is for) Croydon Council will “provide Boxpark with a grant of £61,500 per annum for five years”. Could it be to pay for one individual’s salary, perhaps?
In total, Croydon Boozepark appears to be getting a rent-free site alongside one of the busiest rail hubs in London, plus £1.6million of public cash over five years, in addition to the £3million loan! That must have been a helluva business plan…
Boxpark was originally due to open in “early 2016”, and was expected to be similar to the original Shoreditch outlet of boutiques and fashion stores. Then it was announced that Boxpark Croydon was to be only for food and drink outlets and that it would be opening in the summer of 2016.
That seems unlikely, and it could be a close-run thing if Boxpark opens in time for the council-subsidised festival.
Inside Croydon understands that there are no established local businesses lined up to take space among the 80 units available in Boxpark when, eventually, it does open.
Last year, the Ambition Festival was staged in July, and included some performances at the Fairfield Halls. Clearly, that’s not going to be possible in 2016, either.
Today, Croydon Council announced that the Ambition Festival would be happening in September. “Boxpark Croydon is set to produce the festival following the launch of its major new venture at Ruskin Square,” they said, persisting with the public line that it will be opening “this summer”.
The council’s tax-funded gushing promotion of the private venture continued: “At the heart of the development is a major…” clearly the word of the day in the council press office, “… 20,000 sq.ft state-of-the-art event space, which will be programmed with innovative and vibrant events and exhibitions throughout the year. The festival will be the centrepiece of that programme.”
The 2015 Croydon Ambition Festival was held over five days. In 2016, it’s not quite so ambitious, and will be held over just two days. Which is not so much a “festival”, more a weekend…
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