Goldsmiths cancels plans to launch Enterprise Hub in New Cross

The Enterprise Hub project. Pic: Goldsmiths

Goldsmiths, which is facing a financial crisis, has scrapped a major local enterprise project, which has led to the eviction of two businesses that had been expecting support.

The University of London college has ended its Enterprise Hub project, a joint venture with Lewisham Council, the Mayor of London and architecture firm Morris+Company, announced two years ago and which was supposed to open next year.

It had received £1m in funding from the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund, which has now been withdrawn due to the project being cancelled, Goldsmiths said. The university has not said how much it planned to invest in the project.

The Enterprise Hub project involved redeveloping buildings in New Cross owned by Goldsmiths to include shops, event spaces, a café, meeting rooms and a garden. The space was intended to host workshops and networking events for the local community and Goldsmiths students and alumni.

A Goldsmiths spokesman told Eastlondonlines: ”Unfortunately, due to the challenging financial situation and impact of Covid-19, we have decided not to proceed with plans to transform a row of terraces on New Cross Road into a physical space that supports local firms.”

This move comes amid strong criticism of the college management over plans to cut 52 jobs among academic and non-academic staff due to budget constraints. The job cut announcement prompted a three-week strike starting late November and ending earlier this week that was backed by hundreds of staff and supported by many students.

Two businesses affected due to the cancellation of the Enterprise Hub project are the arts and culture cafe Out of the Brew in New Cross, which has been forced to shut shop, and the costume store Prangsta Costumiers.

Goldsmiths hopes its cost-cutting measures will help turn a “£14 million deficit” into “a surplus in just one year.” These steps, which include a further £2 million worth of cuts in 2023, will also enable the college to pay back loans taken from NatWest and Lloyds.

Mel Shakespeare, the owner of the cafe that opened its doors in 2016 and has been self-funded, wrote in a poster placed in the college campus: “Having promised that Out of the Brew could return to the building once the Enterprise Hub is complete, they have now decided against the project and my business has been closed down for nothing.”

Pic: Out of the Brew

“[Now] I have been told to vacate the storage unit, which means that I have had to sell all the equipment as I have no capital left with which to find a new venue.” Shakespeare told ELL.

Melanie Wilson, who had been running Prangsta for two decades from one of the buildings proposed to be redeveloped, was also evicted last year and was promised a space once Enterprise Hub was completed. But six months ago, she was told that wouldn’t happen anymore.

Pic: Celine Wadhera
Pic. Prangsta Costumiers

Now running out of Lewisham Way, a space she found on her own, Wilson thinks the buildings are going to be abandoned for the next 20 years. “We were there, we were functioning and we were quite good in the space. So now it’s just been left to rot, isn’t it?”

Shakespeare agrees with her: “It is an offence to the local community to leave such a large part of the high street in that condition when many people like myself are prepared to invest in it.”

Shakespeare was evicted from the building that was to be redeveloped last year and was offered an alternate space in Ladywell, which would not have made business sense due to low footfall and staff (mainly students) having to travel a longer distance. Instead, she took up their offer to keep her equipment in a storage unit.

The Goldsmiths spokesperson told ELL they currently have no confirmed plans for the future of the buildings. The spokesman said the college still had an online hub which delivered workshops, events and other activities to local entrepreneurs and businesses.

Lewisham Council has not responded to request for comment.

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