Tin Pan Alley, the historic home of British popular music, is set to receive a major facelift with the street’s musical glory days taking centre stage once again.
Soho developer, Laurence Kirschel, who has spent the better part of two decades piecing together ownership of St Giles Circus and Denmark Street, has a well-publicised plan to develop the area. However, with the disruptions caused by Crossrail, his plans saw major setbacks with much of the area being taken over for construction works in 2008.
With the end of building in sight, however, the official plans for the area have finally been submitted to Camden Council, revealing a proposed 35,000 sq ft below-ground auditorium and venue and 20,000 sq ft of shops as well as space for residents, restaurants and a hotel.
“What we’re looking really to do is bring Denmark Street back up to where it was in the 1960s,” said Richard Metcalfe, property consultant for Kirschel’s firm, Consolidated Developments.
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Shop owners who have traded in the area for decades have mixed emotions about the news, agreeing that the area is in dire need of upgrades but worried that the changes will cost them.
“We desperately need a boost after the trouble with Crossrail,” said Andrew Cooper, owner of London PA Centre and spokesperson for the Tin Pan Alley Trader’s association. “We’ve had three and a half years of heartache because of the blockages and have been losing customers because people just can’t find us.
“The landlords have been as honest as they can be, trying to make sure we stay here when it’s done,” continued Cooper. “They want to keep the area historically musical and they’re not interested in sticking people like Starbucks and Nero in here, but as an independent retailer we’re a little worried about soaring costs.”
Metcalfe denies suggestions that the development will force out long-time residents, insisting that it has always been Kirschel’s intention to maintain the area’s aura.
“We would have fouled if we hike the rents up so high that the music shops can’t afford to stay there,” said Metcalfe. “Our goal has always been to keep the music industry there and to prove that, over the 17 years that Laurence has owned the site, he has had numerous multi-nationals try to move in and he has always turned down the money. So the proof is in the pudding.”
After 17 years of waiting, it looks like Kirschel will finally give Denmark Street the boost it so desperately needs, but with development not planned to start for a few years yet, it can’t come soon enough for some.
“They’re [Crossrail] behind on everything,” said Cooper. “If we can all sit tight a little bit and just be careful of what we do over the next 12 months we’ll have half a chance of being here when it’s all done. We’re struggling quite a bit, but then so is everyone.”