Supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses is essential to the health of the city economy. But how do you do it in real time and respond to ever changing space demands and business types? And how do you create cheap, fast, flexible space without breaking the municipal bank?
Clever cities have learned to be light on their feet and make something out of nothing – which after all is what most new start-ups are trying to do. Across the world we are seeing imaginative re-use of old warehouses and factory buildings with minimum investment and maximum effect. Some of the smartest new spaces for start ups and small businesses make creative use of basic materials to create cheap, fast, flexible work space that doubles as a driver of urban regeneration. They also create a culture – the pool tables and cafes are key creative infrastructure. Our new blog series profiles some projects that might give Toronto some inspiration.
Here East, London
What better to do with superfluous Olympics infrastructure than transform it into infrastructure to support the creative and digital economy? The former media centre for the London Olympics is now being developed into Here East, a centre of innovation and enterprise for the tech community. The Press Centre will provide almost 200,000 sq ft of open, flexible work space, as well as an Innovation Centre with flexible co-working spaces and access to incubation services for embryonic businesses. The Broadcast Centre is already home to the television studios for BT Sport, which will soon be joined by Loughborough University’s new campus for postgraduate study, research and innovation, a 250,000 sq ft data centre and a digital training academy run by Hackney Community College. The Gantry, a vertical gridded structure on the east elevation of the Broadcast Centre, will provide studio spaces for artists, designers and craftspeople managed by a leading visual arts organisation. A 950-seat theatre will be available for use by the local community as well as Here East tenants.
Careful attention has also been paid to the communal spaces at Here East. The space between the three buildings will be landscaped, furnished with dynamic art pieces and lined with retail units to inspire daily interaction and cafes, bars and restaurants will overlook the canal.
Bringing together mature corporations, start-ups, training facilities, research institutions and social enterprises, Here East will provide a dedicated place for innovation and collaboration among technology pioneers. Billed as ‘London’s home for making’ it aims to bring the DIY culture into the technology sphere, encouraging the creative use of practical skills for invention and prototyping. It is estimated that Here East will help stimulate long term economic growth and create thousands of jobs both on site and across the UK.