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Community space takes over former Debenhams store in London

By Rachel Douglass

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Retail

The Loft, Hounslow high street. Image: The Loft, Facebook

An abandoned Debenhams building in London has finally been transformed into a multipurpose creative space nearly two years after the fashion retailer closed its doors.

Set in the top floor of Hounslow’s Treaty Centre, ‘The Loft’ will act as an incubator, allowing businesses to gain their first high street retail experience in what will aim to be a supportive environment.

The space further looks to create new local networks, encourage collaboration and provide support work, including through a legal advice centre for refugees and creative projects.

A defining element to The Loft is The Marketplace, an open-plan collection of up to 64 market stalls that offer crafts and handmade products by independent markets.

In a bid to lift the burden of setting up such a location, The Loft will handle a central sales system, with weekly sales reports, and staff so individual retailers are free of the obligation to be on site.

Other areas include a restaurant, The Kitchen, quiet zone, therapy rooms, office space for mental health organisations and a workshop where lessons can take place.

The initiative will initially launch on February 13, with a full launch planned for late April.

In a release, Jonathan Ashby-Rock, artistic director of The Arts Centre, said: “In the current climate, with high streets struggling and independent shops on the decline, it’s important to discover a model where collaborative working makes high street retail possible for independent makers at all levels. We hope this will be the start of models like this popping up all over the country.”

With the opening, Hounslow high street will now no longer house any unoccupied large retail spaces as it sets about building its identity and providing broad opportunities for retailers and visitors.

Its goal is to increase footfall and dwell time in order to achieve the mission of becoming a destination offering a wide range of attractions, particularly in the realm of independent businesses.

Debenhams
High street
Independent retail
Store opening