AFTER the lost battle to save Old Spitalfields Market from redevelopment early this century, a question mark has again been raised over the Victorian shopping hall sandwiched between Commercial Street and the City.
Present owner Ballymore is rumoured as wanting to sell.
A property company owned by a one-time stonemason, Ballymore was hurt during the Irish economic collapse and the £100 million likely from such a sale would make restructuring its £1 billion of debt a little easier.
The market, started in 1682, is known for tat stalls and, increasingly mainstream shops, but in and around it are designers and artists, including Tracey Emin, who helped to make the Golden Heart pub opposite a hot spot for Young British Artists.
The writer Jeanette Winterson opened an organic shop near by.
Ballymore has said that its aim in redeveloping the market was “to preserve at all costs the quirky character and charm” and to introduce some modern design, technology and building materials. To “everyone’s immense satisfaction”, the market had become “a lively meeting place”.
The company is believed to be compiling a list of companies to be approached to advise on marketing the site at home and overseas. Its proximity to Liverpool Street station makes it prime real estate.
Traders claim that small businesses have been forced out and that chains are being lured to replace them. A stall-h0lder told Loving Dalston that the key to the success of the market was not just its seven-day operation but the individuality of the retail businesses there, and their offerings distinctiveness from those of high-street shops.
The market buildings could be converted to use as a concert hall but its heritage could make planning permission hard to win from Tower Hamlets council.
A possible buyer for Old Spitalfields Market is JP Morgan Asset Management, which owns an adjacent development in Brushfield Street. The Wellington Market Company, which runs the market for Ballymore, might also be interested.
Paul Keogh, of Ballymore, told Loving Dalston: “In terms of the long-term plan for Old Spitalfields Market, Ballymore has made no decision.”
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