Southwark Council identified and enabled the transformation of an underused multi-storey car park into a major cultural and creative hub and workspace. This case study forms part of the Value of culture - regeneration section of our online Culture Hub.
Background and history
Peckham multi-storey car park, owned by Southwark Council, had been underutilised for a number of years. In 2007, following a competitive process, a 10-year lease for the upper floor was given to arts organisation Bold Tendencies to support cultural activities.
Following the success of this move, which included the establishment of Frank’s Café on the rooftop, art installations and the Multi-Story Orchestra, Southwark Council made the decision in 2015 to repurpose the middle levels of the car park for cultural and creative workspace, establishing Peckham Levels as a cultural and creative hub from ground to rooftop.
Recognising the early success of Peckham Levels and a 5,000-strong community petition, in 2017 Southwark Council extended the lease to Peckham Levels from five to eight years, with the intention to extend to 20 years. Southwark now sees Peckham Levels as a long-term, viable use for the site.
- 1994 Cinema at bottom of multi-story car park opened
- 2007 Bold Tendencies CIC formed 2009 Frank’s Café bar on top of car park opened by Bold Tendencies
- 2015 Southwark Council made decision to repurpose middle levels of car park and Makeshift appointed
- 2017 Southwark Council extended Makeshift’s lease from five to eight years
Delivery of activities
- Peckham Levels offers a diverse mix of uses, including:
- 50 studios available for individual hire by local creatives, 20 per cent of which are let on subsidised rents for a 12-month term
- eight offices for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and a 70-desk co-working space
- shared facilities for creatives including ceramics and kiln room, 3D printers, laser cutters, printing press, dark room and photo studios, rehearsal spaces and changing rooms
- yoga studio, event space and gallery/showcasing space
- retail units and a range of food and drink outlets
- children’s play area.
All occupiers are required to contribute at least one hour per week of their skills or knowledge to a community resource scheme, and 10 per cent of profits from Peckham Levels are retained in a community investment fund.
Southwark Council, along with a range of community representatives, contributes to a quarterly steering group and provides advice on key decisions to Make Shift (the operating company), including helping to steer the use of the community resource scheme and investment fund.
over 450 full-time and part-time jobs supported within Peckham Levels
20 per cent of studios rented on less-than-market rent to support creative start-ups
helping to boost Peckham’s cultural identity and attracting new visitors to the area
- over 450 full- and part-time jobs supported – within the 9,100 square metres of creative and cultural workspace provided at Peckham Levels, 67 per cent of tenants occupying office space are from the local SE15 postcode area
- supporting creative start-ups – 20 per cent of studios are rented at around one-third of market rent on a six to 12-month fixed term lease
- enhancing image – Peckham Levels has assisted in boosting Peckham’s cultural identity and attracting new visitors to the area
- community strengthening – the success of Peckham Levels brings direct benefits to the local community through the community resource scheme and community investment fund, as well as through the provision of free public realm and a play space for children.
Innovative use of council asset: although not an obvious reuse for a multi-storey car park, the staged repurposing of the space through leasing of the upper floor, then the middle storeys, has enabled the creation of a unique facility that acts as a community venue and hub for growth of the borough’s creative and cultural sector, as well as raising the profile of Peckham and attracting new visitors.
Recognising the importance of long-term leases: Providing longer-term leases for the car park and political commitment to this as a sustainable viable use provides greater certainty to operators and firms in Peckham Levels, enabling greater investment and enhancement of the offer.
In-built community benefits: the establishment of the innovative community resource scheme and community investment fund provide clear expectation on organisations joining Peckham Levels, ensuring that social impacts are a core output from all organisations, rather than a tag-on. The council’s continued role on the steering group for Peckham Levels ensures it can help to steer the use of these valuable resources.
“Peckham is fast becoming the cultural and creative heart of south London, and at Southwark Council we have been working hard to build on this reputation and bring new and exciting cultural projects to the area, making sure our local communities also benefit.
“Peckham Levels has transformed a dramatically under-used car park into a thriving and eclectic environment where creative and culinary young businesses offer local people and visitors a great place to socialise, as well as giving back to the community with workshops, work experience opportunities and a range of other initiatives.”
Councillor Johnson Situ, Cabinet Member for Growth, Development and Planning, London Borough of Southwark