Boxpark is coming… don’t panic!

By - Monday 7th September, 2015

Lauren Furey says a definite ‘no’ to ‘Cro-Do’ but a big ‘yes’ to the new Boxpark

This isn’t news. In fact, it’s old. The anticipated summer 2016 arrival of Croydon’s Boxpark has been well documented. Both local and national publications have proclaimed and celebrated the coming of Roger Wade’s pop-up mall to south London. Another Boxpark! On our own doorstep! It seems to tie in nicely with the current image remodelling that’s taking place in Croydon.

For those unfamiliar, Boxpark is a shopping mall constructed from refitted shipping containers that seeks to offer businesses a low cost alternative base to reach their customers. The original Boxpark sits in the heart of trendy Shoreditch (you really can’t miss it) and has garnered praise for its innovative approach to creativity and branding. The Shoreditch model is comprised of everything from fashion, art, food and drink and live events but Croydon’s incarnation seeks to primarily focus on the social side.

This summer, Ruskin Square hosted the Boxpark Croydon launch party and CEO Roger Wade delivered his plans for Croydon: a 20,000 square foot events space surrounded by eighty eateries and drinks outlets, open from breakfast time until late and operated by 200 staff. Now, I will admit that I am a glass-half-full kinda girl and for that reason I’m possibly a little more optimistic about this vision than most. I like to encourage positivity about the changes happening in Croydon and, personally, I feel that Boxpark fits the bill.

I want new and exciting businesses to succeed in Croydon

Previously, my pieces in the Citizen have been intended to magnetize the people of Croydon to all that’s new and exciting. I want new businesses to succeed and I want people to know about them. So when Boxpark was announced, I really felt no need to write anything about it. Many will be familiar with the concept and those that aren’t will get to experience it first-hand next summer. However, after Boxpark Croydon was announced, it seemed that a lot of people weren’t as pleased as I was. Here are some of the responses I came across in local papers and on social media.

“£3 million to finance a pop-up mall constructed of shipping containers. Money well spent…really?”

“I doubt anyone will come to filthy Croydon to enjoy food out of shipping containers”

“…an over hyped fairy tale subsidised by the council”

“What impact will this have on Croydon’s restaurant quarter?”

So let’s address these concerns…

Firstly, the term ‘shipping container’, whilst accurate, does not mean that a delivery of Goodyear tyres was offloaded at the docks and immediately replaced with a grill and specials board. The containers are stripped and refitted (recycled, if you like) and for that reason they provide a refreshing opportunity for businesses to make their mark without paying extortionate rental costs.

Secondly, lots of people are flooding back into Croydon. In fact, it’s been widely publicised that if you are looking to rent or buy in south London, you should get in now before the newest retail and housing developments inevitably hike property values.

Boxpark has transformed a wasteland

£3 million is a lot of money. A lot. In the grand scheme of things, though, Westfield Croydon will cost an estimated £1 BILLION… and that venture has hardly begun. Yes, the council has provided the funding but it’s actively utilising a highly visible prime space that has sat dormant for years. My office is alongside the Croydon Gateway and, ever since Boxpark’s announcement, the development has shifted gear and rapidly transformed the wasteland.

Black boards have gone up to mark the site and a couple of the shipping containers are placed near the entrance. Digital images by designer Gavin Elliott give a taste of what’s to come, and positive messages such as “We’re not building Boxpark in Croydon. We’re building Boxpark for Croydon” cover the boards and greet passers-by.

The most worrying thought behind Boxpark’s arrival is the damage that it could do to current restaurants and bars in the area. As someone who loves and supports these venues, that would be a detrimental loss to the town and the community… but I feel that it won’t come to that. Maybe this is my naïve optimism but I view Croydon’s restaurant quarter as another world to Boxpark. The experiences will be similar but not the same, and choice and variety will still be important to the people of Croydon.

We forget how many feel a fierce loyalty to this town, now more so than ever. Don’t tell me that Croydon is a s*** hole. Don’t harp on about the dodgy one way system, knife crime and the riots. For every negative curveball we’re thrown, we come back with a positive. That loyalty is growing because Croydon is trying to better itself – and why not?

Boxpark is an intriguing visitor who’s brought some cool things in their luggage

Remember when the Gateway billboards were green and then purple and then white but nothing ever happened behind them? Well finally, something is happening. Developer Stanhope Schroder still owns the land and its future plans for the Gateway will go ahead but for now Boxpark has been given a chance to engage with the people of Croydon. And if you don’t like the idea, you won’t have to put up with it for very long – Boxpark Croydon will run till 2019.

Did you happen to catch the Evening Standard’s recent article on Croydon? OK, so ‘hipster hotspot’ earns zero points for originality, but let’s see the many positives. We’re cool but we’re self-aware. We’re ambitious but not pretentious. We’re engaged and inspired and dedicated to improving Croydon. Boxpark can add to that. It won’t detract because we know where our loyalties lie and we shouldn’t feel threatened by new developments. Competition is good at a time when Croydon is so sought after.

Boxpark is coming, and that’s okay. Let’s enjoy it while it’s here and allow it to settle in for a bit, like an intriguing exchange student who’s packed a load of cool things in their luggage. As summer 2015 draws to a close and some amazing projects (Croydon at the beach, Lost Format’s rooftop cinema) retire for now, Boxpark gives us something new to look forward to next summer.

Oh, and something else. The Evening Standard kept trying to coin the term ‘Cro-do’. Just – no. Please don’t let that be a thing.

It’s the Cronx and we’re doing alright, thanks.

Read articles like this – and many more – in our monthly print magazine

Politics, reviews, photography, #Croydon #TechCity, sports and plenty more besides: Our monthly print newsmagazine brings all the most relevant, features, news, opinion and analysis together into a single publication. Written entirely by citizens, it’s the perfect way to catch up on what really matters to Croydon over a drink or a coffee, or on the way to work.

You can find the magazine in venues all over the London Borough of Croydon.

Get your copy today. Write for the Citizen and you may well see your own article next time you pick it up.

Lauren Furey

Lauren Furey

I was born in Croydon in 1988 and I've spent my life here, building friendships and experiences that have shaped me as a person. As a Croydon native, I have a big passion for local events, arts, history and culture... and the dearly departed Mexway. I now work as a freelance writer.

More Posts - Twitter

  • Sean Creighton

    Not everyone thinks the arrival of Boxpark is a welcome development.

    The following quetsions need to be asked:

    1. Why is it concentrtaing on food outlets?
    2. Why are not units being offered to small businesses who will need to move ojut of the Whitgift Centre if that development goes ahead?

    • Stephen Giles

      Absolutely right – excellent article and very relevant questions from Sean. My question is quite simply – do we really need eighty more eateries and drinks outlets in Croydon? I don’t think so!

  • Reena

    I like calling it the Cronx as well. Silly hipsters!

    Reading Sean’s comment I agree on the visitor’s centre point. We saw one of the new guides (dressed in very bright pink) the other day in the High Street but he looked like he was going home instead of being there to help. My OH didn’t even notice him.

    And what about using that money (or part of it) for the refurbishment of the Fairfield Halls? there never seems to be money for it.

    I like the Boxpark idea and what it will mean for the town, but some of the implications make me think that we’re better off as we are (such as hipsterisation, will it be relevant to the local community? the rooftop cinema was charging £15 a ticket and how is that affordable for a Croydonian family of 4, let’s say?).

    Croydon has a charm and if people can’t appreciate it, it’s their lose

  • Charles B.Wordsmith

    If the Box Park is for the people of Croydon, why can’t we have more of a say as to which businesses are allowed to trade from the shipping containers. Surely it would be far more interesting if it wasn’t just eateries but also the odd fashion or alternative retail outlet (and then I expect you might get more people coming along to try the food). Also, I do not think you should be permitted to call yourself any sort of ‘park’, unless you have a few plants. I’d suggest topiary boxes at the entrances and a wildlife pond in the middle. Now, that would get people talking and you might even attract a few birds other than pigeons. Croydon should bot neglect the huge amateur ornithologist market, after all.