Kingston Council has signed an agreement with John Lewis Partnership to lease the basement and parts of their ground floor riverside Kingston store to create a new affordable workspace for local businesses and a creative performance hub for young people.
Over the next 10 years, the spaces will enable the creation of at least 500 new jobs across the local economy, by supporting the activities and growth of local businesses. The council has appointed Town Square Spaces Ltd (TownSq) as managing operators of the new affordable workspace and Creative Youth to deliver cultural enterprise and events on the Kingston Riverside.
This innovative community and business partnership-focused venture will include coworking spaces, workstations, a cafe and performance and event space for the public to enjoy. TownSq will also provide a number of startup support enterprise programmes, including an Accelerator, to support fast-growing new businesses.
Cllr John Sweeney, Portfolio Holder for Business and Leisure at Kingston Council, said: “This agreement triggers the creation of two amazing Kingston Riverfront spaces in a section of a building closed to the public for decades. Town Square have the experience to provide a thriving flexible workspace – and a hub for entrepreneurship, innovation and job creation in the heart of Kingston. Importantly, they also offer support to local people looking to take their first steps in starting a business. Creative Youth, already a fabulous Kingston institution, will undoubtedly bring excitement and fun to the Undercroft and the surrounding area. This will be an important destination for the young and young at heart. Looking forward to this area of the river coming back to life.”
Talking enthusiastically about the partnership, Mandy Weston, COO at TownSq, said: “When people from different businesses and industries are working alongside each other, there can be a complementarity of ideas, and that can lead to some incredible collaborations. When you create the environment for individuals and businesses to grow, that ripples out to the benefit of the wider community and the local economy. We can’t wait to get started.”
Alongside the flexible workspace, there will be a creative performance space which will be used and managed by local youth arts charity Creative Youth.
Louise Coles, Chief Executive, Creative Youth, said: “Creative Youth has long dreamed of having a creative playground in Kingston for our young people to develop their potential and talents. Now that dream is becoming a reality. We are excited that this project will, at the same time, animate a space along Kingston’s riverside and contribute to a wider public realm regeneration programme which will benefit the whole community.”
The development of the workspace is a part of the council’s delivery of its innovative ‘BIG South London’ knowledge exchange collaboration, alongside Croydon, Richmond, Sutton and Merton. This will deliver workspaces in each borough and opportunities for businesses to collaborate with universities to support growth and innovation. It is anticipated that the new spaces will open in 2022.
This is just one of many initiatives aimed at building skills and employability in the borough, as well as reinvigorating Kingston Town and Riverside. Over the next couple of months, the council will be working with Creative Youth, Weston Rengifo Architectural Practice (WR-AP) and Kingston Academy to revitalise the riverside, envisaging a new public space that is vibrant, welcoming and safe.
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