It’s a common sight these days, walk in to any cafe or coffee shop in Walthamstow and you’ll probably see it. I say it, but what I really mean is them, the people who crack out their lap tops and work from their local cafe. When I see someone staring intensely at their mac book as they work, I often find myself staring intensely at them. Are they freelancers, do they work from home or have flexible hours, and what is it they are doing as the type away and sip at their coffee? I like to think they are doing something very creative, but I realise that some are probably just on Facebook or checking what time Emmerdale is on that night. I’ve tried working from cafes a few times now but it never really works out for me. The last time I gave it a go, I set up in cafe 56 on St James street. Within half an hour my keyboard was clogged up with chocolate brownie crumbs, and I’d dribbled tea all over my work phone. Anyway, if you are one of the people who can work from a coffee shop, you’ve got a brand new place to try on Hoe Street.
Central Parade is a new venture taking up the space in the clock tower building that was formally occupied by the council. Directly opposite Grillstock, Yum Yum and Turtle Bay, Its giant windows offer cinema screen like views of life as it passes by on Hoe Street. Inside Central Parade, you’ll find a cafe where you could sit and work for while, but the cafe is only a small part of what this new project offers. There are smaller retail units that are available to start-ups, studios, offices, and a co-working area where you can hire desk space. Meanwhile Space, the company behind Central Parade, promised a mixed use creative hub, and it looks like they have delivered just that. Sadly, the parade will only be open for two years, but I’ll come back to that later, let me tell you what’s there first.
The cafe is run by Today Bread, who bake and sell fresh bread on site. If my visit yesterday was anything to go by, they also make cracking sandwiches. Today bread started off as a micro bakery which was set up in the home of the baker, and grew in popularity very quickly. They are joined in Central Parade by the occupants of the incubators, the short-term retail units aimed at start-ups. For the first six months the incubators are home to an art gallery, massage salon, art/craft shop and a wedding dress designer. I had a good chat with Paula, the designer behind Pour L’amour wedding gowns, and she explained how the process works. She had to apply for the space, then attend an interview before being told she was successful. She now has the space for six months, at the end of that time, being fully incubated and hatched, she moves on and another start-up takes the keys.
As mentioned already, the cafe and retail spaces are joined by studios, offices for small businesses, and fixed desks that can be hired in the co-working space. Before anyone starts moaning about Walthamstow turning in to Hackney, and complaining about terms like incubator units and co-working spaces, try to look beyond the blurb. This space could really help local business to get a few steps up the ladder and bring their plans to life, it also serves good food and fresh bread, so what’s not to like? Of course, there is a catch, and that’s the probable short life span of Central Parade, it is likely that it will only stay for two years, and the reason for that is the uncertain future of the building. The council has plans to redevelop (demolish) Central Parade, and build, well, a brand new Central Parade on the same site. I think the only part of the building that would remain is the clock tower.
Personally, I have a bit of a thing for this building, it’s a great example of post war architecture. The curvy concrete wave that ripples along the front of the building is magnificent, especially now the section in front of the cafe has been painted yellow. And of course, the loss of this building would also mean the loss of people’s homes, and that all important and ever decreasing social housing. If this new project is successful, will that have any impact on the councils plans to demolish Central Parade, I expect probably not. Whatever the life span of this new project it is, and despite the fact that it only exists because of the impending destruction of the building it occupies, it seems to me like this is a great use of the space. A place to work, a place to relax, and a place to support fledgling businesses. To find out more, why not pop along and have a look for your self.