SE1 vs East North of the river

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Tuesday 13 March 2012 12.45am
Dear Forum friends and hard-core SE1ers,

I have a question for those who know more than I do and willing to explain.

Although I love SE1 I cannot understand why it is so hard to develop here anything else than food based business (in retail). Everything else seems so rare that it could disappear any moment. Otherwise is terribly cheap.

I went to Brick Lane last week-end and walked up to Columbia market and I was astonished by how much that place is developing in term of independent shops and little businesses. Even RoughTrade the music label bought what was a club and establish its place there. Fantastic.
I tried to think that we are more central and expensive, but even spitafield market is right next to the skyscraper of the city and yet Terra plana, the only shop in Bermondsey street (one of the very few) moved there. To make place to yet another bar.. So it must be expensive renting in Notting hill..

Clearly the population density is increasing steeply in SE1 but the variety of retail is not. Borough High street is derelict still, Tower Bridge road has something to offer but it looks so cheap. Walworth road too. The cut is not making a difference as restaurants are taking over 90% of the space.

So basically, apart from food, can we aspire to something different or we are doomed to talk only bout the new coffee shop or the new local restaurant like these were the only things that the area can offer?

We surely need other things and we all go elsewhere to find them.. so why not here?

Can anybody give an explanation that is not just the high rent of the space? As I don't think elsewhere is much cheaper. And if you see those low quality shops surviving here, then better ones would survive too.. or is it wrong?

Thank you!
Tuesday 13 March 2012 12.52am
I suspect that part of the problem is that so many typical, rowhouse-style buildings in SE1 were demolished for council housing -- or destroyed during WWII -- so that there is not the prodigious amount of physical space in SE1 available for funky businesses as there exists in Shoreditch.
Tuesday 13 March 2012 1.07am
Thank you James. I see how this can be a big drawback but stilld new buildings could have retail at the basement rather than restaurants.. they smell less as well..

But do you think there is any cluster of streets that could develop in that way?

Borough high street has got potential, like Walworth road or Tower Bridge road.Or others..

At the end of the day the columbia market is a little street surrounded by council and ex-council blocks.
Tuesday 13 March 2012 10.28am
I think Walworth Road has great potential, particularly if the Bakerloo Line were to be expanded.

I'm not too bullish on Borough High Street as considering the Shard's opening nearby, I think you'll see lots of new food chains.

Tower Bridge Road could be a lot better, particularly between Bricklayer's Arms and Bermondsey Street.
Tuesday 13 March 2012 6.53pm
All those retail spaces around the Blue Fin building have been empty for years now. I doubt those will attract any funky entrepreneurs either. My hopes sank for good probably when that Nando's near Coin Street opened.
Tuesday 13 March 2012 7.16pm
Those empty units at the Blue Fin building are a disgrace and I can see the one opposite the new Tesco on Great Suffolk St going the same way. I think its time a new approach was taken to these types of units where only a shell is on offer, which chains alone have the capital to bring up to finished retail standard.
Tuesday 13 March 2012 8.58pm
Tolstoy wrote:
Those empty units at the Blue Fin building are a disgrace and I can see the one opposite the new Tesco on Great Suffolk St going the same way. I think its time a new approach was taken to these types of units where only a shell is on offer, which chains alone have the capital to bring up to finished retail standard.
I assume the rent for those units is outrageous. Maybe it should be lowered and local people encouraged to develop their own business, or galleries. Never enough small galleries as far as I am concerned.
Tuesday 13 March 2012 10.34pm
orione wrote:
and yet Terra plana, the only shop in Bermondsey street (one of the very few) moved there.

Terra Plana was already there before they closed down Bermondsey St. They have moved their outlet shop to Brighton, rather than Spitalfields. A shame.
Tuesday 13 March 2012 11.51pm
There is a building on the other side of vinopolis. Almost in front of pain quotidien. It seems empty or to be redeveloped, and it is very spacious.
I have always thought that the whole space could be transformed into a centre for art and independent shops... I cannot find the name of that building but I have read a thread or an article about this in the past.

It also looks to me that although James127 is right about the lack of row-lane houses we have an abboundance of big warehouses that could have been used.. But they go all for flats and chains (Nandos / wagamama).. Like EW was mentioning.
Wednesday 14 March 2012 12.15am
Yes, exactly -- if there is to be an 'SE1'-style of independent shop, it will have to take place in the warehouses and railroad arches, which are just as beautiful and distinctive as row houses.

Unfortunately, it seems as if the kind of development you see in Shoreditch was part of a unique set of historical circumstances -- in other words, at today's Shoreditch/Bethnal Green prices, it would probably not be happening.

That said, I'd love to see some warehouses turn into bastions of creativity -- kind of like the squats of Berlin, but a bit more formal.

Also, I'd love to see all of the railway arches used for shops/dining, rather than industrial -- I'm thinking Elephant Road, for example, which still has space used for industrial, in addition to space for Colombian restaurants, bike shops, etc.
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