Supporting Independent Businesses at Elephant Park

10 Dec 2019

In 2014, The Artworks Elephant was commissioned by Southwark Council to run for a four year period and was operated through a joint venture between Lendlease, the master develop for Elephant Park, and Stow Projects, an urban creative property and regeneration developer. For four years, the Artworks Elephant provided a community led space for dozens of start-ups and local entrepreneurs, offering a flexible, affordable, and safe place for them to operate and grow. A key goal for the Artworks Elephant project was to support and inspire local businesses to continue trading and move on to bigger things after the temporary incubator pop-up closed.

Comprised of 38 recycled shipping containers, The Artworks Elephant became a flexible, affordable, and safe place for local entrepreneurs to start up micro-enterprises and test business models. The diverse mix of businesses included global food and beverage outlets, architects, personal therapies, barbers and beauticians, bakers, and interior designers. There were also social enterprises supporting English language classes for the local Latin American community (Free2Learn); and another which supported construction skills and work placements for disadvantaged people (Be OnSite). A proportion of businesses have grown and gone on to flourish on a larger scale, including five businesses occupying retail units at Elephant Park, the £2.3 billion regeneration project being delivered by Lendlease and Southwark Council. 

Constructing and operating (and decommissioning) the Artworks Elephant site generated broad economic benefits. The construction in 2013 through to its decommission in 2019, created an estimated c.£13.4 million in total economic impact. This includes construction and decommissioning costs of c.£2.5 million. 

The colourful, carnival-style design and ambience of Artworks Elephant also contributed significant value to the urban landscape. Reverting c.2000 regular visitors per year, it facilitated a much-enjoyed public space that truly felt inclusive to all local communities and cultures - from workers, students, builders, and residents from the Latin American, Caribbean, African, Asian and European communities. 

The initiative enabled local people to test their business concept and model in a vibrant, funky and well-connected location; with low cost rent and low risk compared to the market. Rent deposits were affordable and there were no lengthy leases to get locked into due to providing flexible rolling monthly contracts. This provided maximum opportunity for businesses to survive and flourish. Lendlease is committed to supporting local businesses at Elephant Park beyond The Artworks. They continue to provide spaces through which local Elephant & Castle based start-ups and growing operators can build successful businesses by providing affordable rent opportunities through support packages that include incentives and discounted structured terms on rents.

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