Hastings community to be put at the heart of things as future of Observer building is secured

The former Observer building in Cambridge Road, Hastings. Picture: Beth Woolf SUS-181114-113435001
The former Observer building in Cambridge Road, Hastings. Picture: Beth Woolf SUS-181114-113435001

White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures (WRNV) are delighted to announce they have exchanged contracts to purchase the Observer Building, 53 Cambridge Road, Hastings for a total of £1.15 million.

WRNV is a community-rooted development company that has successfully transformed Rock House, next door to the Observer Building, from a run-down 9-storey office block into a creative and collaborative, mixed-use hub which now houses 45 businesses and 10 residents, all at rents capped to remain affordable in perpetuity.

This has inspired a whole ‘ecosystem’ of distinctive buildings with shared values.

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Project champion, Jess Steele, says: “As well as rescuing this beautiful building after 34 years of dereliction, we want it to provide life-changing opportunities for local people – both during the renovation and through the long-term uses.

“While we have a great team, strong partnerships and a deep understanding of the neighbourhood, this will only be successful if local people, businesses and organisations support it.”

Forecasting a ten-year transformation, the team have identified short-term meanwhile uses, medium and long-term development plans.

The initial proposed uses for the site include:

• leisure use on the basement, mezzanine and ground floors

• work pods and office use on the first floor

• artist-maker spaces on the second floor, and a construction workshop to support the renovation

• a roof garden and common room with a bar looking out to sea on the fourth floor (once the roof is


After the initial redevelopment, the second and third floor will be converted into residential flats at capped rent, with work due to begin in 2021.

Eventually, the team may look to build above the fourth floor, in line with the planning permission granted by Hastings Borough Council last year, possibly adding two more floors for flats for market rent or sale which could clear the debt on the building’s development, future-proofing it for community use and protecting the affordable space forever.

Some spaces could be available to hire up to June 2019 with longer-term tenants to move in from July 2019.

The team also seeks an operator to manage the proposed artist maker-space located on the second floor. All expressions of interest, suggestions and ideas to be made through the project website, www.theob.org.uk.

With 55 expressions of interest for long term tenancies from summer 2019 and 11 enquires about hiring the space for a rich mixture of

events, the new team are looking forward to filling the space with life, community and vibrancy.

WRNV welcomes questions, ideas and thoughts from neighbours, to help shape their thinking.

Beth Woolf, communications lead at WRNV said: “We want to enliven the space as soon as possible with what already makes Hastings great – art, culture and quirkiness.

“We’re loving collaborating with some talented local people. We’ve been humbled by both old and new friends coming forward to galvanise around the Observer Building project and we are so grateful for their support so far to make the project a success.”

With the support of the local and wider community, the team hope to raise at least £10,000 to get started with the

immediate works and show the larger funders how much people want this to happen.

Their Crowdfunder offers locally-sourced rewards gifted by supporters of Observer Building project - from Paul Hamlyn Award winning artist Becky Beasley to local hairdresser Yard and Quarter, Tommy’s Pizza to unique reclaimed wood specialists, Harbor.

To get involved visit: Help fund the Observer building

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