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Cork Street Galleries Under Threat: March Apollo

5 March 2014

From Niru Ratnam’s report on the Cork Street development plans in this month’s Apollo:

… the changing nature of the business will probably call time on Cork Street, and the type of commercial art world it came to stand for. In August 2012 seven galleries sited between 22 and 27 Cork Street were given notice to leave their premises by the following June, which they have done. The developer, Native Land, has a £90m deal in place and will, if the proposal is successful, redevelop the site. While the plans allow for three new galleries, existing leaseholders fear a significant hike in rents and new spaces with high ceilings and huge glass frontages, more suitable for international blue-chip galleries or luxury stores. A further redevelopment plan by the Pollen Estate on the other side of the street was also given permission to go ahead.

A campaign led by the Save Cork Street group has gained more than 15,000 signatures to its petition and traction in the press, but at the time of writing has not looked like stopping the developers’ plans. The campaign’s best hope probably lies in the possibility of Westminster Council creating a Special Policy Area (SPA), although that measure does not give the council the power to demand protection for galleries, but rather to urge landlords to keep galleries in the area.

According to James Mayor, the son of Fred Mayor, the redevelopment ‘will be the death knell for the area. It will become like Bond Street, a duty-free shopping mall.’ He points out that many galleries, particularly what he describes as ‘specialist galleries’, do not need 4,000 square feet and soaring ceiling height. The characterisation that Mayor is making is key. For the redevelopment is not, despite some claims by misinformed journalists, going to sound the death knell for Mayfair as a gallery district – in fact, it’s more popular than ever.

Niru Ratnam’s full article ‘Pretty Vacant’ can be found in Apollo‘s March issue