Restored building set for viewings, leases offered from August

After nearly three years of renovation works the Observer Building on Cambridge Road will begin to reopen in August this year. Hastings Commons Ventures (HCV), hitherto known as White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures, the joint venture company which owns and has been managing the development site, is holding open days tomorrow (Saturday) and next Wednesday. Prospective tenants, or just inquisitive visitors, will be able to step behind the original 1920s façade, still in course of restoration, and view the new accommodation on the first floor which is nearing completion.

They will find 12 office-studios, a number of meeting rooms and shared amenities, all of which will be available for use from August, though the lift won’t be installed until October. The offices are rentable on five-year leases (though with either-way break clauses after a year); the meeting rooms will be hireable on a subscription basis.

CREDIT: Hastings Commons

The ground floor is set to open as what HCV calls a Creative Digital Hub in October 2022. The mezzanine level will be brought into play around the same time, beginning as “event space”. On the alley level (below Cambridge Road), a large part has been occupied since November 2021 by 1066 Crossfit Gym. Further uses at this level are expected to emerge during this summer.

As to the upper floors, all windows have been installed, but further fundraising is needed to finance the conversion into residential flats, intended to be let in due course on ‘living rents’. 

Dr Jess Steele, CEO of HCV, explains the gradual opening process as “an approach of phased organic development”, similar to the development of Rock House, the building next door, between 2014 and 2019. “This prioritises getting some tenants into the space to create life and shape its future development,” she said last week, “rather than completing a shiny new building with everything already decided”. 

 The original Observer Building was erected in 1924 as the offices and print works for the Hastings & St Leonards Observer newspaper. After closure in 1985 it became increasingly derelict, with various owners over the years buying and selling at profit but without doing any repairs. HCV, which is a joint venture in equal shares between Jericho Road Solutions, Meanwhile Space CIC, and Heart of Hastings Community Land Trust, raised funds to start redeveloping in 2019.

Open hours for viewing will be 11am – 2pm on Saturday (21 May) and 4:30-7:30pm on Wednesday (25 May). Participants need to register in advance with Hastings Commons on their Eventbrite page to book a viewing slot. 

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