A Croydoner Visits Croydon's New Boxpark

By Jack Oughton Last edited 12 months ago

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A Croydoner Visits Croydon's New Boxpark
The middle of Boxpar is occupied by communal tables and a stage.

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.

There are three entrances. The main one on George Street to East Croydon station, as you can see, is still a 'work in progress'...

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.

…the one on Dingwall Road, right by the bus stations. Looks great from the outside.

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').

...and a small one actually adjacent to East Croydon station. Watch people come out of the station to rubber neck at this new source of thumping music and flashing lights.
Nice ceiling.
View from the top deck.

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).

It's got two floors. The balloons might not always be there.
Meatliquor have a large concession. As usual, they have made their mark on the place.

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.

Poptata's street fries. Bad for the body, good for the soul.
A cocktail. We know not from where it came.
Underneath the main East Croydon entrance is BoxBar — the venue's own bar and the closest thing it has to a club.
A rather nice spot for transport nerds.

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.

You can see they’ve invested in a lighting budget.

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.

Delicious doughy and Italian things from Arancina Pizzeria .

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…

That stripe pattern they love so much.
Cronut style jam doghnut from Dum Dums Donutterie, quartered to stop you eating the whole thing. We ate it anyway.
The main signs aim to catch your eye — watch them flickering and changing colour.
The Breakfast Club implore you to 'choose sausage'. OK then.
Don't mind if we do.
The stage is what you might call intimate.
Greek frozen yoghurt from Chillbox.
As we say, the balloons might not always be there. Boo.

Boxpark Croydon, 99 George Street, Croydon CR0 1LD, opens with a two day festival on 29 & 30 October. Then it's open for business from 31 October, seven days a week.

Last Updated 26 February 2017