Overview of project and what we’ve achieved
We applied for funding from the Mayor’s High Streets for All Challenge back in 2020. We knew that the area was resilient through Covid, with a strong local economy and high street. We also knew we had a creative, entrepreneurial community in the area, with Lambeth’s largest industrial estate and strong local independents.
The one thing missing in the push for a stronger local town centre was more places to work, and this was coupled with diminishing supply of existing workspace, with the ACME & Bainbridge artists’ studios unfortunately closing their doors.
So when the opportunity arose with the Mayor’s High Streets for All Challenge funding, we applied to the GLA to create and improve workspaces on the high street and were successful in receiving £150k of funding in two tranches. The first £20k saw us delve deeper into the demand for workspace at the local level which then enabled us to unlock a further £130k of funding to deliver on our vision for the area.
With the initial £20,000 of funding from the Mayor of London’s High Street for All Challenge, we worked with Helena from A Small Studio and PRD to develop a strong evidence base and vision which set out why we needed more workspace in the area, based on research into supply and demand trends and through engaging with local residents and businesses to understand this.
We then used these documents to apply for further funding from the High Streets for All Challenge to deliver on this vision; the Making High Streets Work project, and were successful in this application, receiving £130,000 from the Mayor to deliver a range of outputs.
Understanding the workspace need locally
In the second round of funding, we worked with Avison Young to do more of a deep dive into supply and demand locally for workspace, and to understand what spaces, places, and mechanisms for workspace growth should be prioritised in the future, as well as where there are opportunities to create space for key sectors which create good jobs for local residents. This document has been approved by the Lambeth Cabinet Member for Business and its findings will be considered as part of any planning decisions in the future, for example Site 18 behind the high street.
ChooSE27 Destination Branding
Through the programme we also worked with a branding agency Strudel to create a brand for the programme which could have longevity when the project itself ended – this is ChooSE27 https://stationtostation.london/choose27/ – a destination branding which aims to attract people to the area, whether to work or visit.
Using this destination branding, we launched a workspace finder service on our website which matches those looking for local spaces to work with those who have them. We also used the branding in the first ChooSE27 Festival – a 3 week event in May and June – that showcased creative events in local workspaces and which saw an uptick in spending locally during those dates. We are also using the brand to launch a new digital town app.
SE27 Collective & Businesses
And finally, throughout the project we’ve been working closely with businesses in the area through the ‘SE27 Collective’; a group of local landowners and business managers, plus other key stakeholders from the council and the BID. Some of these businesses who engaged through this process were able to have a fully funded space audit by Meanwhile Space who are the experts in creating and transforming workspace and who were also commissioned as part of this project. These 6 businesses (Hobby’s, South London Theatre, Reyco, Portico, Conduit Mead & East Place Studios) had a site visit from the Meanwhile Space team and discussed their aims for their spaces, with Meanwhile Space then proposing interventions to enable the maximisation of the space. This led to the £30K capital spend of the programme which has been split fairly between the 6 businesses.
We first engaged with businesses around increasing the workspace provision locally in the ‘Power of Norwood High Street’ project done as part of the London Festival of Architecture in June 2020 https://stationtostation.london/the-power-of-norwood-high-street/ . Some of these businesses kindly gave their time and knowledge through stages 2 and 3 of Making High Streets Work project.
We brought businesses and landlords together through the SE27 Collective (which was inspired by learnings from Creative Wick, the stakeholder group which has been influential in Hackney Wick in ensuring that affordable workspaces are knitted into developments in this industrial area) making a space for businesses to speak candidly, support one another, and raise their issues collectively. These collective meetings have been occurring every quarter at several of the business’ premises and have created strong working relationships to enable us to be ready for the future, and which will continue past the lifespan of the Making High Streets Work project.
This project has been a real highlight for the team working on it – the BID, the council and local businesses – and has shown what is possible when we work in partnership. We are looking forward to the future for West Norwood and Tulse Hill, and how we can continue to collaborate to create a thriving town centre which works for all.