SPOTLIGHT ON ISLINGTON SQUARE
It’s set to change the retail landscape in N1, but what exactly is the new Islington Square development all about? We are given an early sneak peek
It’s amazing what you see when you really open your eyes. Take the old post office on Upper Street, next door to the ever-popular King’s Head Theatre Pub. I remember queuing up in there (on far too many occasions) with little or no interest in my surroundings. Today, in amongst hoardings outside, a banner for Oxjam Islington greets me, along with countless artworks created by North London locals, all part of opening this space up to the community. But it’s just the start.
The Angel resident is one of the first magazines to be given a guided tour of Islington Square, which will – when opened complete in 2017 – offer a 4.5 acre mixed-use regeneration and development scheme. Ever since we first heard about the venture, the excitement has been building – finally the area will have a shopping, leisure and residential district that it deserves – but I have to admit I had no inkling to the amount of space behind the former post office.
The scale of the job is quite something. With elements of the former North London Mail Centre divided up into blocks, Chris Dunn of Sager Group – who along with Cain Hoy have formed a Joint Venture to develop the £400m project – takes me around each part and explains what we will ultimately see. Despite the fact it’s literally a building site at present, you can really get an idea of what this development will look like. The residential apartments, which include a proportion of affordable and shared equity housing, above retail outlets, for example, will benefit from extraordinary ceiling to floor space, whereas those lucky enough to purchase one of the penthouses on the fifth floor will see quite the view: the City one way, close enough to touch, King’s Cross the other.
Like much of the architecture in Islington, the former North London Mail Centre is a wonderful Edwardian building and the developers will be sympathetic to that. After a good clean, the façade will remain the same and the design of arcades in the blocks will mean the key heritage features of the original post office site will remain. Behind the building that fronts Upper Street, the space extends further below, which will ultimately offer the ideal location for a cinema and a separate leisure complex.
Make no mistake, this is a big thing for Islington. Backing on to some of our finest squares, residents have been kept in the loop with plans and are, seemingly, happy with the plans. The pop-up space out front will keep us entertained for now – there’s a big name chef due to take up residency in August – but I for one can’t wait to see the final development in 2017. It’s almost like waiting in a post office queue.
Words: Mark Kebble
Keep up-to-date with news and developments at islingtonsquare.com