The Observer Building is a landmark property in Hastings that was built in 1924 to be the offices and print works for the local newspaper, the Hastings & St Leonards Observer. It comprises 4,000sqm of industrial floor space over seven floors.
The building is to be converted into a new mixed-use community facility. When complete the project will include three floors of leisure businesses (including an activity and event space which will be programmed to support the local community through a new non-profit operator), one floor of low-cost co-working studios and offices for local businesses, 16 living rent flats, and a public roof terrace and bar/common room with expansive views across the town and over the sea.
The Observer Building ceased operations as a printworks in 1985. The structure is of reinforced concrete frame design with steel frame to the uppermost level. It is built into the ‘White Rock’ stone of Hastings, with the lowermost floor having a series of caves (the vaults) that extend into the cliff face. It has been in a state of dereliction and decay for 34 years, despite having had 13 previous owners and nearly as many planning permissions. All bar one of the owners made money on the building but none undertook any repairs or redevelopment.
The building was purchased in early 2019 by White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures (WRNV), a locally rooted social enterprise developer who have now completed a 7-month programme of repairs to the concrete defects. The purchase followed 10 years of sustained community engagement, where 400 locals were in regular conversation about the risks posed to Hastings by gentrification, which threatened its precious diversity and character.
The project, in its design, delivery, and long-term operation, will be optimised to provide as many life-changing opportunities for local people as possible. Carefully designed local procurement will deliver far greater employment and training opportunities than is typical, alongside an extensive community engagement programme.
The Observer Building forms a key part of a wider collaborative community-led regeneration effort in the White Rock neighbourhood of Hastings. Known as the Hastings Commons, it is an ecosystem of connected buildings and tenants with shared values and purpose. This locally-rooted, evolving community aims to create secure homes and work spaces where creativity can thrive, boosting local participation and economic growth, promoting inclusion and diversity and encouraging grassroots enterprise.
White Rock Neighbourhood Ventures
Hastings, East Sussex