Having been a faithful West Londoner for over four years, 2018 saw me take a stand against the 10-minute morning waits at Earl’s Court on the crammed District Line and daily wave from the 5am flights bound for Heathrow, and make the decision to move south of the river. Goodbye District Line; hello Victoria Line (and more buses than I can count).
The move has not just come with the countless improvements to my morning commute: there is also a wealth of new and – dare I say it – trendy weekend hangouts. Last weekend, for example, a friend’s birthday led me to what can only be described as a stroke of genius: Peckham Levels.
The arts and leisure project, an underused town-centre car park, was originally created to provide affordable and inspiring space for independent businesses, artists and local entrepreneurs to work, grow, trade and learn. For the next six years, it will house a new creative workshop and cultural destination, evolving and developing to suit the needs of the local community. It already boasts offices, a kids’ play area, street food, bars and a yoga studio (naturally).
The key features of the car park – the big ramps and tell-tale yellow lines – have all been kept intact, adding to the unique character this place has in abundance, not to mention the amazing views over the City.
Yet Peckham Levels is not alone in this creative space venture. Moving back further West and we arrive in the heart of Soho, at Brewer Street Car Park. A more established venue, the disused car park has is fast becoming Soho’s most dynamic creative space. Home to audio-visual shows, events and installations, Brewer Street Car Park has draped an arts and culture hub effortlessly over the old fabric of the car architecture.
So what does this mean for the wider issue of real-estate development? As demonstrated by both Peckham Levels and Brewer Street Car Park, there is no such thing as a space too difficult to re-invent. With mixed-use destinations the order of the day, investors are taking advantage of under-used, neglected parts of cities and creating a utopia of sights, sounds and smells for communities to relish. It also says something interesting about the way we move around our cities, as central London turns away from the car.
With JLL recently reporting that commercial property investment might not quite hit recent heights this year, could these imaginative re-inventions of the classic car park be a great way to rev the sector up again…?