The Observer Building was bought on Valentine’s Day 2019 by White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures, a partnership between:
- Two investors/developers – Meanwhile Space and Jericho Road Solutions
- A local charity and long-term owner Heart of Hastings CLT
WHAT ARE THE PLANS FOR THE BUILDING?
We were awarded planning permission in September 2020.
The plans include a mixture of capped rent spaces that will include:
- Alley level: 1066 CrossFit Gym and a brewery
- Mezzanine: 11 shops/workshops
- Ground Floor: a cafe, 6 recording studios and a live room
- 1st Floor: 14 offices and co-working studios
- 2nd & 3rd Floor: 15 capped rent flats for those struggling to find housing
- 4th Floor: roof terrace and a bar
- A fully restored frontage, alley exterior and south-facing wall, constructed with sensitive, attractive and sustainable materials
BACKGROUND TO THE PROJECT
The project was inspired by 10 years of sustained community engagement, where 400 locals were in regular conversation about the risks posed to Hastings by gentrification, which threatened its precious diversity and character. They concluded that something could be done to mitigate this:
– putting buildings into community ownership and capping the rents forever.
So when Rock House came up for sale, the two investors leapt at the chance to put these ideas into action. Over 4 years, space by space, the building was renovated with a mix of grant funding. It is now full of tenants who are part of the development team, shaping the building and the community within it.
The team at White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures were heartened by the success of Rock House, which is now a thriving mixed-use hub home to:
- 10 housing tenants – over half on local housing benefit
- 44 small local businesses ranging from virtual reality to music production
- i-Rock – an NHS youth mental health drop-in service
- Home Ground Kitchen – a neighbourhood kitchen working with refugees and providing a platform for women in the food industry
So when the Observer Building went up for sale, they began fundraising using social investment banks and negotiated a reduced price of £1.15m for the freehold.