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Observer Building - photo credit: White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures
Observer Building - photo credit: White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures

White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures @ Observer Building

29 April 2020
England

White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures Ltd (WRNV) was set up in May 2014 as a joint venture between two social enterprises, Meanwhile Space CIC and Jericho Road Solutions Ltd. The partnership was created to pursue the purchase and redevelopment of Rock House, a derelict and neglected historic building in the heart of Hastings. The original partners were joined by Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust to create an enhanced partnership to continue to take on projects that deliver valuable social and economic benefits to the local community, in turn bringing unused assets of significant value into productive community use.

In February 2019 WRNV purchased the former HQ and printworks of the Hastings and St Leonards Observer, which had closed in 1985. The landmark building was built in 1924 and is close to the centre of town. It is an imposing building with a grand façade, designed by local architect Henry Ward. It comprises approximately 42,500 sq. ft. of industrial floor space over seven floors and the structure is of reinforced concrete frame design with steel frame to the top level.

Through renovation and re-purposing of this historic building WRNV aims to create over 2000+ sq.m. of workspace for local enterprises and start-ups, provide opportunities for up to 300 jobs locally, and develop 16 affordable homes for the local community. This will make a significant contribution to the local social and economic regeneration of the town.

The AHF is delighted to have assisted WRNV with a loan of £350,000 alongside other social investors, including Ecology Building Society and Big Issue Invest. Our support will enable WRNV to complete Phase 1 capital works and finance project management of the Observer Building project.  This investment is important as it will allow the business to undertake the necessary works to enable it to commence income generation through let out of space on the Alley Level to local enterprises. Further funds are to be secured to continue phased capital works in 2020.

Commenting on the investment, Matthew Mckeague, CEO of the AHF said: “The Observer is a landmark building in Hastings and we were excited by the WRNV vision for both the building itself but also the wider town and the project’s place within it. Despite the undoubted challenge generated by Covid 19, we know projects like this are going to be vital to the future regeneration of town’s Hastings and we are pleased to help it move forward.” 

Beth Woolf, Assistant Director of Jericho Road Solutions says “The Observer Building was once a thrumming epicentre of economic and community activity – we’re proud to be restoring it as a resource for the neighbourhood, with capped rent homes, workspaces and leisure facilities that provide life changing opportunities for local people. Our team is grateful to have Architectural Heritage Fund on board to help us bring the sleeping giant back to life after 35 years of dereliction. We know these sorts of inclusive community spaces will become even more vital while we bounce back from the Covid 19 crisis.”

Find out more about the project here https://theobserverbuilding.org.uk/

Editor’s notes

The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. We are the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK. We provide advice, development grants and loans.

For media enquiries please contact Oliver Brodrick-Ward, on 020 79250199 / oliver.brodrick-ward@ahfund.org.uk