I have a confession to make. My first job after graduating was based in Croydon, in Apollo House which still stands today and was one of several post-war concrete office blocks built as Croydon sought to develop itself as the “Manhattan of the South”. Since then, things have gone downhill; many of those post-war buildings are looking tired as is the Whitgift Shopping Centre, which then was spanky and new. The two department stores – Allders and Grants – have gone and while Debenhams and House of Fraser are still there, the town has a feel of being in transition, not helped by the road and tram system which makes the town pedestrian-unfriendly.
Around East Croydon station, things have been changing as part of the East Croydon Masterplan, creating a new station entrance and a pedestrian footbridge at the northern end of the station and bringing together the new developments which are contributing to the regeneration of this part of Croydon. One the ambitiously named “Saffron Square London”, a residential development dsigned by Rolfe Judd and rising to 43 stories with coloured cladding said to be inspired by the shape of a crocus (!!) was on the short-list for the 2016 Carbuncle of the Year where cladding was described as a “car crash of a façade”.
The best project is in fact a temporary one – “Boxpark”. In 2011 Boxpark established the world’s first pop-up mall in Shoreditch – creating a fun and lively eating, dining and entertainment destination, entirely occupied by independent retailers, and constructed from shipping containers.
In October 2016, the second Boxpark arrived in Croydon, establishing itself as a new home for street art and as the “Silicon Valley” of the South with a music heritage that includes Peep Show, Dubstep and the BRIT School – where former alumni include Amy Winehouse, Adele and Katy B.