This is it, Londoners. Croydon is officially 'fancy'. If you've heard anything on the grapevine lately about the borough that gave us dubstep, you're probably aware of both a Westfield and a Boxpark on the horizon. Westfield (hotly anticipated as it may be) is still some distance away, but Boxpark is here (…about five months behind schedule). And it's bloody huge.
For those not yet familiar with Boxpark, the folks behind the concept claim to be 'inventors of the world's first pop up mall'. The first one was established back in 2011 and is arguably as much a part of the Shoreditch landscape now as the the Old Truman Brewery or Spitalfields.
But, get this; Croydon’s Boxpark is bigger and arguably more ambitious than the original. Built on what was a derelict brownfield site next to East Croydon station, the site boasts 80 shipping containers, a capacity exceeding 2,000, seven-day opening, and a hectic schedule promising over 200 events a year (including music festivals and what are described cryptically as 'workshops').
Our favourite bit? Boxpark Croydon is 100% dedicated to food: over 40 traders, great and small, pitch their delicious wares in its various black, metallic alcoves. The approach is more 'international street food' than 'sit down fancy restaurant', and includes some bigger names like Meatliquor, The Breakfast Club and the Department of Coffee and Social Affairs — plus some local favourites like the Cronx Brewery (beer from New Addington) and Wine&Deli (the chaps behind Brgr&Beer in Matthew's Yard).
Take a glance at Boxpark’s unmistakable neon and black facade and you’ll notice that this thing is…well capitalised. Very well capitalised. The project itself is the result of a partnership between Croydon Council, Schroder UK Real Estate Fund and Stanhope PLC. Which basically means more big money and more big expectations being ploughed into Croydon. Or gentrification — depending on how you look at it.
On the main part, the people of Croydon appear enthusiastic about the shiny new Boxpark, though many have hesitations about the £160k of funding and £3m loan that had to come out of Croydon Council's pocket to get this thing off the ground. Others question how much of Boxpark's revenue will stay within the borough and how many new jobs will be going to local people.
It's also worth nothing that, whilst relatively easy to start things with a bang, there is a prospect of Boxpark tripling business rates in the near future for its traders — which creates the very real possibility of vacant lots and the dystopian scenario that anyone who has visited the Whitgift Centre is all too familiar with.
And there is, of course, the question of affordability. From what we've seen, Boxpark has a bead squarely on the young, affluent, and hip demographic — so will older, or less affluent Croydoners feel welcome too? Time will tell, but things certainly look promising…