Rescue and renovate a vast disused building into a mixed use, capped rent community hub offering opportunities for diverse local people.
The Observer Building (OB) is the latest, most ambitious project in the hyperlocal ecosystem of community businesses developing in the White Rock neighbourhood in Hastings.
The Observer Building offers a new scale of impact for what was achieved through our flagship project, Rock House, now a full and thriving mixed use building with 90 tenants paying securely capped rents.
At 4,000 sq.m, the OB is a huge building with unique spaces. It has dragged down the immediate neighbourhood through 34 years of dereliction but has the potential to catalyse significant positive change for local people on multiple levels.
Our plans will rescue these wasted spaces, transforming the 7 storeys into a mixed-use hub where local people can flourish, including:
- 16 capped rent flats for those struggling to find housing in a rapidly gentrifying town
- 1 floor of open plan, capped rent work spaces that offer opportunities to collaborate and participate in the building’s management
- 3 floors of vibrant leisure businesses, activities and events. These floors will be partly run by a new organisation – Leisure & Learning Trust – to work with local people and groups to animate the empty spaces through a year round exciting programme of events for everyone to enjoy.
- clear commitment and resource dedicated to maximising life-changing opportunities and place shaping opportunities presented by the redevelopment and future uses of the OB.
WHO WE AIM TO HELP
- The opportunities created by the Observer Building’s redevelopment will be aimed at people who are excluded or at risk of being completely forced out of Hastings due to the growing lack of affordable space.
- More broadly, everyone benefits from the economic boost created by a derelict building being brought back to life and there will eventually be 4 floors of public space in the OB for anyone to come and enjoy.
HOW WE DO THINGS
We are committed to maximising the learning, sharing and life-changing opportunities presented by the redevelopment and the future uses of the building.
We believe it is possible to improve the neighbourhood without destroying its unique character or displacing current residents and businesses, by ensuring there will always be affordable spaces for living, working and community action.
We are entrepreneurial, agile and well-connected. We take the risks that are needed in the early years in order to create stable-state community assets for the long term.
All our work aims to remove buildings from the dominant ownership model which prioritises owner profits over tenant interest and control. Instead of a focus on putting up rents rent and growing profits, we offer capped rents and community self-management.
We use a phased organic approach to development as in our successful redevelopment of Rock House, which saw the spaces coming to life from vacant possession in October 2014 to successful, profitable and sustainable by April 2018. This approach allows for fundraising in phases over time, provides revenue streams at the earliest possible stage by progressing floor by floor (see below diagram) and gives incoming tenants the chance to shape the space and become part of the development team.
This is an ambitious and exciting project at the dynamic cutting edge of alternative regeneration and place-based thinking.