Throughout 2016, our Workspace that Works programme introduced Future of London and our network to many workspace operators, local authorities and other property owners working to deliver crucial employment space while contributing to regeneration throughout the city. With support from Potter Raper Partnership, FoL tied the programme together in December by bringing these groups together to forge new partnerships and hear from speakers involved along the way. Their talks are summarised below.
Martyn Saunders, Director of Regeneration and Spatial Planning at GVA, offered considerations for delivering appropriate workspace for local economies and contexts. Recognising clusters of similar activity is a start; from there, mapping the spatial connections between clusters and their supply chains, markets and/or clients can highlight suitable workspace locations and infrastructure needs to bring products to market. Where economic activity is less developed or clustered, identifying ‘anchor activity’ can drive complementary workspace. For example, Apple’s choice of Nine Elms for its new HQ could launch the area as a tech hub. Finally, knowing what skills local people have helps develop workspaces that are more responsive to local demand.
Illustrating some of these considerations, Accents Project Manager Blossom Young shared Poplar HARCA’s approaches to establishing a workspace cluster in east London. The Fashioning Poplar programme is using London College of Fashion’s relocation to Poplar in late 2017 to attract additional fashion industry activities, including training for local people in garment manufacturing. Meanwhile, the Open Poplar scheme maps underused spaces (e.g. garages, boiler houses, empty retail units) and invites anyone to submit a business proposal that makes use of the space, as long as it offers community or social value. Flexibility towards how these spaces are used caters to the needs and skills of the community.
Sara Turnbull, CEO of Bootstrap Company, commented further on using workspace to benefit the wider community. Since its inception in 1977, Bootstrap has supported businesses which make a social impact. For example, its Print House building is rented to community and voluntary sector organisations run by locals. Tenants whose social impact aligns with Bootstrap’s charitable objectives are eligible for subsidised rent. Rents are kept as low as possible by using earnings from Bootstrap’s event spaces. Bootstrap is determined that local people aren’t forced out of Dalston as the area undergoes regeneration; keeping workspace affordable helps bring some security for jobs and tenants.
The Camden Collective has been tackling unemployment and bringing vacant buildings into use since 2009. Operations Director Hasanul Hoque explained that new businesses with potential to create local jobs receive space for free for six months. In return, businesses agree to contribute to the Collective community by improving the building or sharing skills. This curation strategy aims to establish a balanced environment where businesses can share skills with and complement one another. Camden Collective’s most recent project at the Temperance Hospital near Euston is contributing to both social and physical regeneration; not only does it provide space for 100 start-ups, it brings a derelict building back into use after 10 years.
At the pan-London level, the GLA focuses on Places of Work as part of a strategy to promote regeneration. Lev Kerimol, Principal Regeneration Officer, pointed out that while co-working has exploded in recent years, employment space is under threat from rent increases and demand for housing. To address this, the GLA provides capital funding and public investment for workspace projects that can demonstrate social and economic value, especially those in outer London, sectors with specialist needs (e.g. kitchens, labs, messy workshops) and social enterprises. The GLA has also commissioned research to understand and capture the value of workspace from social, cultural and economic perspectives; the latest is available from IPPR.