I write with a background as a former tenant in Antiquarius Antiques Centre in Kings Road, Chelsea. Although the situations are not identical, the 2009 dealers were given advanced notice that their leases would not be renewed, once the questioned property was slated for redevelopment. It is my opinion that there are some valuable lessons to be gleaned from the win-lose scenario that developed from this prior situation.
• During the last year of its reign as an Antiques Centre, dealers were pushed and shoved from pillar to post by the property pretty much being kept in the dark about everything. For the most part, they were given what was effectively a 24 hour lease for the final few months of their residence.
• While some tenants tried to fend off imminent closure, most just paid the rent and waited around like lemmings, anticipating their very sad end.
• When Antiquarius finally closed, some dealers were able to find other locations, and others simply had nowhere to go, resulting in their either being forced out of business or pushed into early retirement.
To avoid a similar scenario, AAD throws down a challenge to all those who can somehow alter the inevitable, yet alterable, outcome. Any person, who can present sensible suggestions, breaking the current deadlock and setting aside the entrenched views, will, I’m sure, be greatly appreciated. There is a need to think creatively in attempting to achieve a win-win outcome for all on Cork Street. Everything shall be transparent and above board, and AAD will be happy to host all viable suggestions, by which I mean genuine attempts to think freshly about this issue as a means of breaking and clearing a way through the current deadlock.
Dear Cork Street Dealers
Waiting around until your leases expire is a high risk gamble. Any legal challenge may be too late to be effective. Many of your leases expire on or around 28 June 2013 of which you were aware in August 2012. Yes you have 13,000 supporting signatures and yes you have the support of much of the UK and international Art Market. Unfortunately, the law is quite simply not on your side, and spending more money on lawyers is virtually throwing good money after bad, in my opinion.
While James Mayor’s article posted 22 February 2013 on AAD is truly emotional and heart wrenching, stopping the development is likely to be little more than wishful thinking at this stage. What is your Plan B? Or, is it inevitable that the Cork Street community will be scattered to the wind? What out-of-the-box thinking can you come up with? Or, are you waiting for someone else to save the day?
Dear Native Land
Your stated intention of ‘’reinforcing Cork Street’s reputation as a world class art district’’ can surely accommodate the existing smaller galleries who have all contributed to making Cork Street what it is today. These galleries may be smaller in size, but are world-class in reputation and portfolio. Institutions such as the Mayor Gallery have been on Cork Street since 1925! Surely Native Land would rather not be seen as attacking the Art trade in London by forcing these galleries out of their premises, destroying this internationally renowned cluster once their leases are terminated later this year?
If, for example, the plans for ground floor retail units have not yet been resolved, or if they are still some way from being finalised, is there a creative way of accommodating the existing tenants so that Cork Street’s community is not scattered to the wind?
Dear Westminster Council
Cork Street is one of the most renowned roads in the borough of Westminster. This is another example of developers moving into an area that has a positive reputation, built up over decades by the Art Market, to be priced, once developed, at a rental level which only large commercial companies can afford. Over the past few years, a similar transition has been occurring in W11 with the ‘redevelopment’ of shops on Portobello Road. A number of ‘high street’ chains have moved in, capitalising on the area’s reputation built up for decades by thousands of small antique dealers. Is it your job to sort out any problems facing the art market? No, of course not. However, Westminster Council might hold the keys to a possible solution facing Cork Street, and your participation in contributing to a solution that supports the micro-economy of the area could only reflect positively at the political level.
Dear BADA, LAPADA, SLAD, BAMF
What advice can you offer your members caught up in this sorry situation? If you had a magic wand, what creative solution would you conjure in resolving this impasse? Wishing the dealers in Cork Street good luck is a start, but what practical advice can you offer? What could your members reasonably expect, given the emphasis placed on ‘bricks and mortar’ by BADA in a recent letter to ATG? Surely, action must back the rhetoric?
To all readers of AAD: Please feel free to share your creative problem solving to this difficult situation. If you can present new and fresh perspectives, please do so.
Time is running out so, if this forum is to flourish, I strongly suggest that all should refrain from developer bashing, council poking, or emotionally-charged arguments. What is needed now is a win-win strategic and frank discussion, aimed at finding a workable solution.
I wouldn’t wait too long.