The project to renovate the Observer Building (OB), the iconic ex-newspaper factory at the heart of Hastings town centre, is entering its next exciting phase – developing designs for the renovation. 

By Beth Woolf

With the 5,000 square metres of internal concrete repairs now complete, the project team and newly appointed architects, IF_DO will be looking to the community to shape the future of the building.

Work began this September to gather people’s ideas at events attended by over 2,000 people. Locals of all ages commented on design proposals for each floor at the OB’s Coastal Currents exhibition and the Village Fete in Gotham Alley. Some of the inspired suggestions made were a climbing wall, a creative hub for families, a palm house on the roof and even a banana shop!

The team have also received expressions of interest from over 140 potential tenants and hirers since February, providing a rich picture of the future local businesses and ventures that could be housed in the OB.

Join the conversation

As well as commissioned research with target groups, IF_DO will be gathering ideas from the broader public on the following dates:

• Saturday 30th November, 11.00am -5.00pm at the Retrobella Vintage Market in the Observer Building (Cambridge Road)

• Thursday 12th December, 11.00am-2.00pm at the Town Centre market (Robertson Street)

Sarah Castle, lead architect on the project said: “Listening to the Hastings community is an essential part of the Observer Building project. The design team enjoyed gathering ideas at events this summer, which have influenced the project’s feasibility report.”

As the designs for the building develop, the architects hope to hear many more people’s views at upcoming events before Christmas. These will help them maximise the benefits of the project both to future users and the surrounding community.

It’s all about funding 

Although funding challenges have led to some delays and changes of plan, the recently-announced £2M High Street Heritage Action Zone grant for Trinity Triangle – including £400,000 allocated for the Observer Building – will help to unlock other funds. So now is the time to gather opinions on how the renovated building can once again be a great asset for the town.

One of the project’s directors, Emily Berwyn, explained that they had just £80,000 in the bank to start renovating Rock House, but that it is now a beacon of community-led regeneration: “Its sustained success has proved there is a better way to own and manage property – with fair rents, shared values and community ownership.”

She says they are determined to run the Observer Building in the same way, despite the funding landscape being very challenging: “We welcome any ideas, advice or offers of investment to help us bring the building back into community use.”

First tenants in 2020

The team hope to have the building part-open by summer next year when they will be focusing on moving the first tenants into the co-working studios on the first floor and developing a vibrant leisure offer at the alley level. 

In the coming months, they will be contacting people who have shown interest in using the building with news of their revised plans and inviting applications. To keep the community focus, applications will be assessed by a panel of directors, current Rock House tenants and independent assessors from the community.

The OB team are keen to hear from people across Hastings in the coming months to shape the future of the building. To keep up to date with the project, join the mailing list and find out about events where you can meet the team visit: www.theob.org.uk or email [email protected]


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